Concussions in Football – Does Type of Helmet or Mouth-Guard Make a Difference?

concussions in football playersNew data looking at football helmet type and brand disproves the fact that certain helmet companies are claiming that their brand is more likely to prevent concussions than others. Three common helmet brands: Ridell, Schutt, and Xenith were studied by authors Dr. Timothy McGuine et al. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Health Sports Medicine Center.  Results from this research was presented at the American Orthopedic Sports Medicine Annual Meeting in July 2013, in Chicago, Illinois.

Renee Blisard Buddle with the Journal of Orthopedics Today interviewed Dr. Timothy McGuine for the November, 2013 issue. She wrote an outstanding article in which she noted that Dr. McGuine studied three football helmet brands (Ridell, Schutt and Xenith) purchased between the years 2002 and 2012, worn by 1,332 high school football players during the 2012 season.  Dr. McGuine’s research group had the players complete a questionnaire answering three questions:

  1. Helmet brand worn
  2. Number of years playing football
  3. Type of mouth guard used (custom vs. off the shelf)

Number of concussions in football and days lost from play were recorded by the athletic trainers.

The data was very interesting. We know that once an athlete sustains a concussion the risk of a second concussion is much higher.  Dr. McGuine’s study found that it was 2.2 times greater risk that a player will sustain a second concussion after the first one. The research team reported the incidence of concussions sustained in 2012 was 8.6%. When looking at the concussion rate within the last year it was 13%, and over a 6 year playing period 19% had sustained a known concussion.

Custom mouth guards are being marketed to parents and football players with the promise of a reduced concussion risk and this study actually found a significantly higher risk of concussions with the custom mouth guards. Helmets are also being marketed to families with the by-line that they are safer, and again, this study proved no difference in concussions in football between 3 of the most popular helmets brands.


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