CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Nov. 7 (UPI) — Old-fashioned “leatherhead” football helmets protect as well as and sometimes better than the current models, U.S. researchers said.
Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic, Case Reserve Western University and West Virginia’s United Hospital Center said they were surprised by the findings from impact tests on both types of helmets.
Modern helmets are built to prevent high-severity impact injuries such as skull fractures, but they do not provide superior protection from near-concussive and subconcussive head impacts that can cause anatomical and functional changes in an athlete’s brain, researchers said.
“We thought that the lighter leatherhead might reduce force and torque on the neck but never suspected the head injury metrics would be comparable,” lead author Adam Bartsch said Friday in a statement. “We did not appreciate how stiff the modern helmets would be in common, everyday hits. Hence, the stiff modern helmet was often comparable to the minimalistic leatherhead.”
The results were published online in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine.
Researchers, who said they aren’t suggesting football players return to leatherheads, strongly recommend the development of new safety designs and testing standards for helmets that will minimize doses of both high-severity and low-severity impacts and injury risks, especially for helmets worn by children and adolescents.