The Pro Football Concussion Report

A Fan's Look at Head Injuries and the Concussion Crisis in Football

NFL funds Idiotic Study with Leather Helmets

University Research on Leather Helmets


“One’s skull would be significantly better protected when running headfirst into a brick wall while wearing a modern American football helmet versus a vintage leather helmet.” Seriously, that’s in an editorial just published in the Journal of  Neurosurgery. Apparently, as part of the never-ending NFL funded university research on impact and football helmets scientists discovered that upon impact a 1940’s leather helmet provides less protection against concussions than today’s modern helmets. Now, nobody ever suggested they would, but it still might be worth a $100k to some researchers for a paper. The team of researchers also recommended that due to differences in methodologies and conclusions with other impact tests, “we must continue examining experimental protocols to achieve better quantification of helmet performance . . .”

What’s more awful than the pursuit of such unnecessary conclusions is that the research can then be promoted, republished and misconveyed by other publications. For instance the magazine Smithsonian simultaneously published a piece based on the Journal editorial called “Surprising Science.”  Under a photo credited to the Journal of  Neurosurgery, is the line:

Recent testing shows that, contrary to prior findings, new plastic helmets reduce the risk of concussions by 45 to 96 percent.

Obviously, nobody at is worried about being attached to one of the many helmet lawsuits claiming that Riddell has promoted that their helmets help lower concussion-risk. They must mean that plastic helmets are safer than leather helmets, but that’s not what it says.

And the researchers nor the magazine article even address the actual argument for leather helmets. If players wore leather helmets or no helmets at all, they would likely be less prone to use their heads as a battering ram. Hence there would be fewer concussions. Of course, more skull fractures, broken noses, missing teeth, eye damage and facial wounds. But, possibly fewer concussions. Money for nothing.

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