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Is there such a thing as an anti-concussion helmet?

Is there such a thing as an anti-concussion helmet?

Sports physiotherapist

When you’re shopping for a field hockey helmet, you’re probably looking for one that will provide extra protection for your skull and, ultimately, for what’s inside it: your brain. If you read up on the subject, you’ll realize that some companies have launched so-called “anti-concussion” helmets. These same companies have hired researchers to develop their products and make them ultra-high-performance. But what about the ability of these field hockey helmets to reduce the risk of concussion?

To date, there is no scientific evidence to support the fact that field hockey helmets can reduce the risk of concussion(1,2). Since concussion is the result of movement of the brain inside the skull, it’s hard to imagine that the helmet can prevent this injury from occurring following a violent body check(2). Helmets are most useful for preventing skull fractures and facial injuries(3). That said, there are currently few objective studies independent of the manufacturing companies to guide us in our choice of helmet(1). However, a study has just been published on the subject, and the results will blow you away.

In fact, researchers at Virginia Tech University have developed an algorithm and a helmet classification system called STAR based on two elements(1) :

  1. The frequency of different blows to the head over the course of a season.
  2. Helmets that reduce the acceleration of the head following a blow reduce the risk of concussion.

While this is a simplified classification, and not the absolute truth about reducing the risk of concussion, the results of this independent study are astounding. Most models advertised as “anti-concussion” are rated only 1 star (out of the optimal 5) in the STAR classification. The top-rated helmet gets 3 stars, and is not the company’s top-of-the-range helmet. It can be seen that helmet price bears no relation to the number of stars obtained in the classification. For example, a $34.99 helmet gets 2 stars, while a $269.99 premium helmet from the same brand gets only one. We invite you to form your own opinion on which helmet to choose by consulting the field hockey STAR ranking.

These researchers developed the same type of protocol for soccer in 2011, and at the time only 1 helmet had a 5-star rating. In 2014, the number of 5-star-rated helmets is twelve (4). This is an encouraging development, and gives us hope that field hockey companies will follow the lead of soccer companies in adjusting their products. In the light of these results, as the number of suitable helmets is almost non-existent, we advise you to choose your helmet on the basis of comfort and fit. And make sure it doesn’t obstruct your vision or hearing. All in all, concussion prevention is more a question of education, on-ice behaviour and rules than of equipment per se.

Written by Maxime Provencher, M. Physiotherapy

References :
1.Rowson, B. Rowson,S. & M.Duma, S. Hockey STAR: A methodology for assessing the Biomechanical Performance of Hockey Helmets. Annals of Biomedical Engineering. October 2015, Vol.43, No. 10 p.2429-2443.
2. McCrory P, Meeuwisse WH, Aubry M, Cantu R, Dvorak J, Echemendia RJ, et al. Consensus statement on concussion in sport, the 4th Internation Conference on Concussion in Sport held in Zurich, November 2012. British journal of sports medicine. 2013;47(5):250-8.
3.Odelgard, B. The development of head, face, and neck protectors for ice hockey players. ASTM STP 1050. Philadelphia: American Society for Testing and Matrtials, 1989.
4.Rowson, S. & M.Duma, S. Virginia Tech Helmet rating-adult soccer helmet ratings. May 2014. , 2014.

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