Are football helmets safe? New Mexico Senator Tom Udall wants to know. Citing the estimated 100,000 concussions in high school football each season, Udall is calling for a football helmet review. Udall suspects that the helmets could be the culprit and wants to protect high school players from long-term brain damage. Many suspect that several hundreds of thousands of concussions go unreported or are not recognized each year.
But is the problem the helmet or the way it is used? The NFL has recently made a lot of news by cracking down on violent hits, especially those that lead with the helmet. But many fans and players think restrictions on the game are unnecessary, that violent hits are simply are part of the game.
A volunteer group with ties to the sporting goods industry sets the football helmet standards, which go back to 1973. Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, wrote a letter to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, calling for a football helmet review and arguing that the “voluntary industry standard does not specifically address preventing concussions.”
According to The New York Times, football helmets are only tested for protection against massive hits--the kind that could cause a skull fracture. However, there may actually be a bigger danger from the cumulative damage of less severe hits, which can still cause concussions.
“Although football helmet safety technology has drastically improved since the days of leather helmets, today’s helmet safety standards may not be informed by current understanding of concussion risks,” Udall said, reported The New York Times.