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High School Football Injuries: New Research Criticizes Helmets

Many California parents can easily imagine an awful scenario in which a teenage son suffers a crippling brain injury on the football field. Although brain injuries can cause devastating consequences, they sometimes go undetected and untreated. As a result, some players have a false sense of security and can run the risk of even worse injuries.

When family members do confront the consequences of a traumatic brain injury, they could find themselves wondering if someone or something other than the child is responsible for what happened. For example, school medical personnel sometimes fail to recognize the signs of a serious injury and allow a player back on the field.

One new possible culprit is emerging as the result of new research: some football helmets may do very little to prevent concussions and other closed head injuries.

Using advanced sensors, researchers looked at whether helmets actually do protect players. They concluded that while helmets do prevent skull fractures, even the best helmet only protects from concussions 60 percent of the time. Some helmets offer absolutely no protection from concussions and other brain injuries.

The reason for this surprising result is that helmets do very little to prevent the brain from moving around inside the player's head. Because concussions happen when an impact knocks the brain against the skull, helmets might not be able to offer much protection from the real risks of football.

This puts even more responsibility on coaches and school medical staff to recognize when a player may have suffered a brain injury. The decision of whether to pull the player out of the game for medical attention can mean the difference between a full recovery and a potentially much more serious injury.

Source: ABC Action News, "Research tracks high school football brain injury," Alison Morrow, Oct. 30, 2012

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