VT study ranks football helmets on concussion protection

Baltimore, MD - The hard knocks to football players are shielded by their helmet. But now some head protection worn even by NFL players is getting knocked to the bottom of a new ratings list.

Brian Gaia is a defensive lineman at the Gilman School.

"You'll get up and you don't know where you are. Sometimes you'll just be dazed and confused," said Gaia.

Gaia is among 60 of Maryland's top high school junior football players recognized by the Baltimore Touchdown Club Tuesday night. Choosing the best helmet to cut down on the number of concussions is the force behind a Virginia Tech-Wake Forest study.

The eight-year evaluation looked at 120 impacts to 10 different helmets. It's the first time researches have given consumers a list of the top-rated gear to help prevent a concussion.

But Dr. Andy Tucker at Union Memorial Hospital, and the head team physician for the Ravens, says parents, players and coaches should be cautious about the findings.

"While it's important to know whether a helmet performs better in the lab, that may or may not translate into performance on the field and decreasing concussion rate on the field," said Dr. Tucker.

The study ranks Riddell Revolution Speed at the top with five stars. Riddell is also at the bottom; the VSR4 model got just one star. The helmet was discontinued

You don't always get what you pay for; one model not recommended is more expensive than a four star.

We learned nearly 40 percent of NFL players and 75,000 high school and college players wore the VSR4.

Gaia was picked up by Penn State, and his father says it's nice to know he can do his own homework.

"It's nice to have a list. It's nice to have somebody do the scientific research on things because we don't know that stuff. We don't know how good they are," said Tim Gaia.

If you want to read the study, click here

Even in practice they move pretty fast.

Although this was a light drill for the Ravens, helmets are on at all times.

They're for protection; about 75 percent of all helmets used in the NFL are made by the company Riddell who has the exclusive contract with the league.

They have the best helmet and one of the worst.

"We're taking each helmet through 120 different impacts all directions all heights to get one score of concussion risks so we wanted to do a comprehensive, cumulative approach to how well a helmet works." Study Author Doctor Stephan Duma told ABC2News.

Professor Duma's School of Biomedical and Engineering Sciences team took a look at many factors while studying Virginia Tech players for eight years.

How hard is the hit, the height and length of hit, and where it hit on the helmet among other factors.

Their findings rank The Riddell Revolution Speed as one of the best on the market.

Several helmets made four stars two of the top are the Xenith X1 and the Riddell Revolution series.

Three stars the Schutt Air XP

Two stars the Schutt Air Advantage

One Star the Riddell VSR-4

One helmet didn't even rank and that was the Adams A2000 Pro Elite...which actually cost more than some of the higher rated helmets.

To break it down even further 38 percent of all pro players wore one of the lowest rated helmets.

And about 75 thousand high school and college players also wearing the VSR-4

By switching from the VSR-4 to the four star Xenith helmet could lower concussion chances by more than half.

Doctor Duma says that not only does the study seek to lower concussions and get manufacturers to look at their own helmets but to give athletic departments and consumers a standard for picking protection.

"If you go out yesterday all you knew about buying a helmet is what it cost and what it looked like now you can get independent data, we don't take any money from any of the manufacturers and you can get a good idea on how that helmet performs." Duma says.

Several of the manufacturers dispute some of the findings saying that they don't think that the standard used were accurate.

NFL players pick their own helmets and Duma is hoping that this will give them more information to make better choices not based on price but performance….because even some of lower priced helmets out performed some of the most expensive ones.

For more information about the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest study you can go directly to the study at http://www.sbes.vt.edu/nid.php

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