Happy New Year's! Today my son and I are anticipating the match between the NY Giants and the Dallas Cowboys, and I am reminded of the risk that all football players accept when they battle on the field. Head injuries are of particular concern because of the quantity and force of head strikes, sometimes approaching that of a severe car crash. What is the best design for protection?
One NY Giants player, Chris Canty, uses a unique design to minimize risk of head trauma and eye injury, because of a severe eye injury he suffered off of the playing field. From today's NY Times:
While most helmets have a big opening at eye level and six to eight spaces between the bars on the face mask, Canty's has nearly 25 "windows." The bars are so close, not even a stray pinkie can slip all the way through.
Canty's vision is not perfect -- "it's good enough," he said -- and he has adjusted to peering at opposing players through a spider's web.
Tuck tried a version of the helmet after sustaining a neck injury this season, but said he quickly scrapped the visor when the Giants played the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome.
To learn more about the risks, below is an excerpt from my previous post on head injuries and football helmets:
It is no surprise that anyone playing football risks physical injury. More and more data is pointing to brain injuries caused by high speed collisions to the player's helmet. I once had the pleasure of dining with Michael Strahan who played for the New York Giants for fourteen seasons. Our conversation was engaging and covered a range of topics, but we didn't talk much about football. Interestingly, he spoke about how proud he was of his sister, who has an interest in science - particularly biochemistry. He is fortunate to have sustained minimal injuries while playing on the national level, but I wonder whether he might be an exception.
A recent National Geographic report presents some recent data in a dramatic, interactive display. Below is a snapshot of data collected from a single player sustaining more than 500 helmet hits. As you see, many of them represent hits greater than 80 times the force of gravity (a severe car crash is estimated at 120 g's) and two of the hits resulted in a concussion.
One 21-year-old defensive end took 537 hits to the head during a season of football games and practices at the University of North Carolina. Of those, 417 had magnitudes of 10 g or more (shown). Two resulted in concussion. Click and drag on the graphic below to rotate it and get a clearer sense of the location and magnitude of all the recorded impacts.
These data indicate that the currently used helmets may not offer sufficient protection, particularly in cases in which players experience hundreds of hits. Do we need more data to revise the safety requirements for helmets in professional and amateur football?
The bloodied hands are fairly intimidating as well!
The issue of concussions in sport is gaining more and more recognition as more professional athletes are beginning to report lasting and serious effects of their injuries. Being a competitive soccer player my whole life I have sustained four concussions and can relate to several points made in this article. I have suffered neck and back problems as well as chronic migraines due to my injuries and it is good to see people starting to take notice of the dangers of concussions. The article mentions the extreme number of hits that a player received before incurring the concussions. It is interesting to consider that it is not one hit that causes the concussion but rather the forces applied to the head all at different directions and magnitudes prior to a large hit. The article also talks about how a player switched his type of helmet after sustaining a serious neck injury during the season. It makes you question, what kind of research can be done to develop a type of helmet that had the capability of reducing the force actually applied to the skull. In women's soccer there is a fairly new type of protective headgear that is designed to to just this but its' effectiveness has been questioned but numerous neurologists. I think that the sports community needs to invest time and financial resources into developing new methods of prevention as well as recovery from these injuries.