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Can new rules, technology decrease football concussion injuries?

With the NFL and NCAA both facing concussion lawsuits from former players, player safety is a popular topic among football leagues, teams and coaches this year. The NFL, for example, has made new rules that many players and fans may not like: Players must wear more pads than ever before. Furthermore, running backs will face penalties for leading with their helmets. College football players will face similar changes. Players may be ejected from the game if they aim at another player's neck or head with an intent to injure the other player.

Unfortunately, while more pads and rules could reduce the number of concussions and other serious football brain injuries, there is simply no technology that will prevent all concussions. Riddell, a popular helmet maker, has faced lawsuits for falsely advertising at least one of its popular helmets as capable of reducing the risk of concussions (and failing to warn players of those concussion risks).

Now, at least one company is attempting to sell an additional piece of head protection that encircles a helmet. Called a "Guardian Cap," the helmet shell is made of foam rubber and has compartments that are meant to take on more of the energy during football collisions. Riddell is also getting in on the action, introducing a helmet sensor system that indicates to coaches and players when a hit was strong enough to cause a concussion.

While the new technology is promising, they do not and cannot prevent all concussions. Any claim to the contrary is simply false. We hope that helmet companies and football leagues work together to make the game as safe as possible for players - and keep players informed about their real risks along the way.

Source: USA Today, "More padding the issue of concussions and better helmets," Gary Mihoces, July 31, 2013

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