It's clear that impact sports like football, hockey and boxing can cause long-term brain damage. With football season in full swing, attention is now on a new helmet designed to prevent season-ending and possibly career-ending injuries.
The Riddell SpeedFlex helmet and InSite Impact Response System will be used by several college football programs this season. The Arkansas Razorbacks team is one squad trying the helmet in hopes that head injuries will be greatly reduced. The University of Arkansas head football coach, Bret Bielema, tweeted before the season started:
The helmet is designed to disperse energy, reducing the risk of trauma, while the InSite is intended to alert coaches when a player suffers a significant hit to the head, or multiple hits that combine to pose a risk.
Blows to the head can lead to concussions. According to WebMD.com:
Concussions are the most common type of sports-related brain injury with an estimated 1.6 million to 3.8 million sports-related concussions a year. A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that happens when the brain is jarred or shaken hard enough to bounce against the skull.
A proponent of player safety, Bielema is part of the cutting edge. However, there's no proof that the SpeedFlex — or any other helmet — can reduce the risk of a devastating head injury yet.
“It’s just like everything else — everything advances and you get better at it,” Bielema said recently. “I think our kids really like the way (the helmets) feel. They feel snug. They feel fit. So I think that’s a step in the right direction.”
Heading a soccer ball is also under the microscope. A study of high school soccer players suggests that it may adversely affect a player’s ability to think. Parents, players and coaches are calling for an end to the move.