Virginia Tech has released the results of a new rating system of adult football helmets that is designed to reduce the risk of concussions. One currently manufactured helmet received the top "5 star" rating, five helmets received the very good "4-star" rating and one got the dreaded NR--Not Recommended.
This biomechanical impact data study on football helmets represents the first time researchers have provided the public with comparative test results.
The information is based on a new evaluation methodology that incorporated eight years of data and analysis, quantifying head impact exposure and risk of concussion. The testing data showed that the overall best helmet currently available to the public is the Riddell Revolution Speed, which earned the only "5-star" rating.
The next category includes five very good performing helmets that were all given a "4-star" rating: Schutt ION 4D, Schutt DNA Pro+, Xenith X1, Riddell Revolution, and Riddell Revolution IQ, according to Stefan Duma who directed the project.
The lowest rating assigned was "NR" meaning not recommended, and that label was given to the Adams A2000 Pro Elite helmet.
"The results clearly show that the newer technologies across all manufacturers are significantly better at reducing the risk of concussions compared to the older models," Duma says.
The evaluation involved performing 120 impacts on each helmet model at multiple locations and impact energies. A total of three new helmets were purchased for each model and tested to determine the STAR, an acronym for the Summation of Tests for the Analysis of Risk value.
"We utilized over one million measured head impacts to quantify the impact exposure and concussion risk for the development of the STAR equation," said Steve Rowson, assistant professor at Virginia Tech in the School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences.
At the lower end of the ratings are several helmets that are in use. With a marginal rating of '1-star' the Riddell VSR4 is the second lowest rated helmet. Many of the 2010 Virginia Tech football team players used VSR4 helmets and had them through spring ball in April 2011. "Once we finalized the numbers, my first call was to our head team physician Gunnar Brolinson and our head team trainer Mike Goforth. We all agreed that we had to change out the helmets immediately," Duma said. "For the fall 2011 season, our players that had VSR4s will be in the Revolution Speed helmets."
To cover the cost of the new helmets, the School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences agreed to pay for the newer and better performing helmets. "There is an appreciable cost associated with changing out approximately 40 helmets, but there is no question that we are going to do it," Duma said.
The NR-rated Adams A2000 Pro Elite helmet had a STAR value of 1.7, “significantly higher than all other helmets. Several of the impacts resulted in values that are close to the threshold for skull fractures," said Rowson. " For the same price that we paid, there are many other helmets that are much better," he added.
While there are large differences between the top performing helmets and the least performing helmets, the difference between 5-star and 4-star helmets is much less. The cost of the helmet showed little correlation to the relative protection offered by it, Duma explained. All helmets ranged from $159 to $299. Interestingly, the Schutt DNA Pro + was one of the cheapest helmets at $169.95, but was one of the very good helmets given a 4-star rating. In contrast, the Adams helmet that is not recommended cost much more at $199.”
(From Virginia Tech press release. Collegiate Times photo.)