SBD/Issue 72/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NFL Tests Helmets To See Which Protect Best Against Concussions

Final Results Of Helmet Tests 
Are Expected In March
The NFL “has begun to test models of helmets worn by players to try to determine which models might best protect players from suffering concussions during on-filed collisions,” according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. The program is “being funded by the NFL and run cooperatively by the league” and the NFLPA. League officials said that the final results are “expected in March.” An initial round of testing of helmet models designed for NFL players by five manufacturers, conducted at two testing facilities, “was completed and the results of the testing were given to the manufacturers during a meeting last week.” Manufacturers can “offer input and potentially resubmit helmet models for a second round of testing before the final results are made available to players.” NFLPA Medical Dir Thom Mayer said, “Some helmets performed extremely well. Some did not” (WASHINGTON POST, 12/24).

TESTING QUESTIONED: In N.Y., Alan Schwarz reported the NFL’s new helmet safety standards being developed are “raising familiar questions of faulty science and conflict of interest.” The development of a new helmet-testing protocol, amid the league's “tangled web of industry relationships and using data long believed to be incomplete, is drawing criticism from rivals of the league’s official helmet sponsor and some of the few outside experts aware of the plan.” NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello in an e-mail said the league through testing aims “to continue to learn as much as possible about the protective qualities of helmets, to share the information with the manufactures and others.” However, helmet manufacturer Schutt CEO Robert Erb said that he is “concerned with ties among Riddell, the league, its concussion committee and one of the two labs currently used for testing helmets, Biokinetics and Associates of Ottawa.” Riddell has been the NFL’s official helmet sponsor since ’89 and outfits about 80% of the players. The sponsorship deal “mandates that the brand names of non-Riddell helmets be taped over so they cannot be seen on television.” Erb said too many of the doctors and technicians now involved with the NFL’s testing protocol “have a vested interest in Riddell looking good.” But Riddell President Dan Arment said, “I don’t think that anyone would compromise any part of their business by acting in any sort of a biased way” (N.Y. TIMES, 12/24).

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