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Do Helmets Prevent Concussions in Football?

helmet mouth guard concussions preventionUnderstanding Concussions

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. Concussions can also result from a hit to the body that moves the head and brain back and forth rapidly. When an impact occurs, it causes the brain and surrounding cerebrospinal fluid to move within the skull. Because the brain is similar to Jell-O in consistency, when the head moves suddenly by force, the brain shifts, turns, and twists inside the skull causing chemical and metabolic changes deep in the brain tissue. The resulting concussion produces symptoms like confusion, dizziness, headache, and blurred vision.

So, Do Helmets Help?

The short answer is no, football helmets are not designed to prevent concussions. Rather, their primary purpose is to prevent skull fractures. Even with recent advances in the development of football helmets, they do not prevent the brain from moving within the skull.

Similarly, mouth guards can help prevent dental and oral injuries but not concussions. Research shows there is no reduction in concussion rates for players wearing mouth guards.

What Can You Do?

While there is nothing that can truly prevent concussions in football, there are a few things athletes can do to help reduce their risk of concussion. First, proper fit of the helmet is critical. Although the concussions helmet football athlete injuredhelmet itself cannot prevent a concussion, research shows that improper fit of the helmet can increase concussion symptom severity and duration. Next, proper tackling technique can help to reduce the risk of concussion by using the shoulder to initiate contact instead of using the head. Finally, neck strengthening can also be beneficial to help stabilize the head and dissipate the forces transferred to the head during collisions and rapid head rotations.

Learn More About Concussion Prevention

To learn more about concussion prevention and management, click here. For more on the role of helmets in concussion prevention, watch this TEDTalk by David Camarillo, PhD.

Written by: Lindsay Hagler, MS, ATC, CSCS athletic trainer for The Center Foundation and Mountain View High School in Bend, OR. Learn more about Lindsay HERE.


Helmets and Mouth Guards: The Role of Personal Equipment in Preventing Sport-Related Concussions Daniel H. Daneshvar, MA,a Christine M. Baugh,b Christopher J. Nowinski,c,d Ann C. McKee,c,j Robert A. Stern, PhD,c,kand Robert C. Cantu, MDc,e,f,g,h,i,l

Inadequate Helmet Fit Increases Concussion Severity in American High School Football Players Dustin A. Greenhill, MD,*† Paul Navo, MPH, Huaqing Zhao, PhD, Joseph Torg, MD, R. Dawn Comstock, PhD,§ andBarry P. Boden, MD¶

Meet Our Team: Nicole Porter

A native of Lewiston, Maine, Nicole attended Dakota Wesleyan University for her undergraduate degree, earning a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training. After graduating, Nicole went on to South Dakota State University where she earned her Master of Science in Exercise Science. While at South Dakota State Nicole enjoyed her time as a Graduate Assistant Athletic Trainer for the Men’s and Women’s Track and Field and Cross Country Teams.

Nicole is thrilled to have recently moved to Madras, Oregon with her husband, Daniel, and their two dogs and two cats. She joins The Center Foundation team as the Athletic Trainer in support of Madras High School.

First job? 
Dog walker

Favorite food?
Mac and cheese

Something quirky/interesting about you?
I am a five-time All-American in the racewalk.

What is one thing you would like people to know about athletic trainers?
We are normal people with extraordinary superpowers!

Meet Our Team: Stuart Schmidt

Stuart Schmidt, Athletic Trainer Supervisor

Stuart joins The Center Foundation as the Athletic Training Supervisor after having spent the past six years as an Assistant and later Head Athletic Trainer at Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Stuart attended Oregon State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Sport Science with an option in Athletic Training. After graduating from Oregon State University, he worked as the Athletic Training Fellow at The Center and The Center Foundation where he divided his time between working in the cast room and as the Athletic Trainer at Sisters High School. Stuart left Bend to attend graduate school at The University of Florida where he received his Master of Science in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology. During his time at UF he served as the Head Athletic Trainer at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida.

Stuart is excited about being back in Central Oregon and contributing to the excellent care and services provided through The Center Foundation to the local community.

First job?

Scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins

Favorite food?


Something quirky/interesting about you?

My summer job in college was working at the Salmon Fisheries in Alaska.  I enjoy cooking, spending time in the outdoors, and am a very passionate Oregon State Beavers fan!

What’s one thing you would like people to know about athletic trainers:

Certified athletic trainers are highly trained allied-healthcare providers who are especially qualified in evaluation, treatment, and prevention of athletic injuries. We are qualified to treat the full range from acute emergencies to chronic overuse injuries, and everything in-between.

Meet Our Team: Shawn Taylor

Shawn Taylor, Program Administrator

Involved in sports from an early age, Shawn enjoys living an active Central Oregon lifestyle through running, cycling, cross-country skiing, and hiking, but she feels most fulfilled when she supports others to excel. She is thrilled about having the opportunity to support young athletes, keeping them healthy and in the game through our sports medicine program.

Shawn started her career as an administrative and medical assistant in an orthopedic surgeon’s office. During that time, she was also pursuing education to become a licensed massage therapist (LMT). She practiced as an LMT for seven years, while also spending three years as a pharmacy technician for Salem Hospital and three years at St. Charles. After that, Shawn decided to fulfill her dream of getting a bachelor’s degree and graduated with a BS in biology with a chemistry minor after six years of working full-time and going to school. Before joining The Center Foundation, she spent seven very exciting and demanding years as the Executive Assistant for OSU-Cascades while the campus grew tremendously.

She feels deeply aligned with The Center Foundation’s mission. With her lifelong passion for health and medicine, Shawn has found her true calling as the program administrator for The Center Foundation.

First job?

After babysitting? Picking strawberries during the summer in Junior High School (yes, it was JHS when I attended. Did I just date myself?). My first “real” job was as an administrative and medical assistant in an orthopedic surgeon’s office.

Favorite food?


Something quirky/interesting about you?

While I am linear, logical and detailed at work, I’m kind of a dreamy, spacy artist at home. I paint in both oils and acrylics and have had the honor of selling several pieces.

Athletic Trainer Spotlight: Lindsay Hagler

Athletic trainers (ATs) are at the heart of The Center Foundation's sports medicine program. Working in concert with coaching staff, ATs help create a safe and supportive environment to keep Central Oregon’s student athletes healthy, safe, and active.

Meet Lindsay Hagler, AT-C

Lindsay has been an athletic trainer for over ten years, and spent eight of those years working with the student athletes at Mt. View High School. She graduated from George Fox University with a bachelor’s in Athletic Training and Fitness Management, providing her the opportunity to work closely with the Portland State University football team. She received her Masters in Sports Medicine from Western Michigan University, while working at a local high school as their first athletic trainer. Lindsay finds it most rewarding when she is able to help athletes from the moment they are injured on the field, through rehabilitation, and then finally seeing them compete again in the sport they love. 

First job?


Favorite food?


Something quirky/interesting about you?

I love to ride motorcycles

What’s one thing you would like people to know about athletic trainers?

We are highly trained allied health care professionals that do “a lot of behind the scenes work”, you may only see us on the sidelines of games, but we started preparing several hours earlier and we usually put in additional time after the game concludes, working to keep our athletes safe and healthy.

Flexibility and Sport Performance

runner stretching

Flexibility and sport performance are closely linked. In fact, not only does flexibility improve performance, but it also helps prevent injury. Specifically, when a muscle is tight or shortened, it can create a point of weakness in the body. This in turn can limit an athlete’s performance and predispose them to injury.

Flexibility and Injury Prevention:

Poor flexibility can lead to poor posture. This in turn can lead to dysfunctions within the kinetic chain. For instance, athletic activities requiring quick explosive movements demand a more pliable muscle/tendon unit to store and release the high amounts of energy required to perform at an optimal level. Because of this, an athlete who does not have pliable muscle/tendon units may become overwhelmed by the high energy levels these sports demand. As a result the athlete is prone to injury and strains in muscles and/or tendons.

But the good news is that a regular flexibility program will increase the pliability of the muscle/tendon unit and decrease dysfunctions in the body’s kinetic chain. Thereby decreasing the chance of injury.

Flexibility and Sport Performance:

A tight/shortened muscle in an athlete’s body can cause the opposing muscles to work harder. As a result, the athlete is prevented from utilizing their muscles to their full capacity. In general, each sport requires a certain range of motion from the joints in the body that are specific to that activity. Specifically, if you consider a sprinter, their body requires a large range of motion in the hip area to get sufficient knee-drive during a sprint. On one hand, if the glute muscles are tight, the athlete may experience a loss of stride-length and power in the hip flexors. Conversely, if the hip flexors are tight, the athlete loses much of the power needed for the glute muscles to do their job.

The benefits of a flexibility program:

A flexibility program will improve joint range of motion, increase the power output of a muscle by allowing it to contract through a larger range of motion, relieve stress on involved joints, and improve health and pliability of the muscle/tendon unit in an athlete’s body.

A proper flexibility program includes the following components:

Foam Rolling –

foam rollingFoam rolling consists of three phases. For example, for the quadriceps (quad) muscle, the athlete is lying face-down with the foam roller under the quads. Here are the steps to follow in order to effectively use a foam roller on sore muscles:

  1. Start by rolling up and down the length of the muscle. Next, when you find a hot spot (one that hurts quite a bit), hold in that spot for 30 seconds and concentrate on breathing.
  2. After the 30 seconds, roll up and down past that point 5-10 times.
  3. Next, find the spot again and flex (bend the knee to bring your foot to the glutes) and extend, then straighten the leg 5-10 times.
  4. Finally, find another spot and repeat. This process can be repeated for the calves and IT bands (the side of the leg) simply by changing position on the foam roller.

Dynamic Warm-up –

A dynamic warm-up is an important part of many sport practices. If your team does not do a dynamic warm-up, then encourage your coach to incorporate one into your practices. Because a dynamic warm-up moves the body through a variety of repetitive movements, the range of motion increases a bit with each repetition. In addition, many of the movements are designed to simulate athletic movement. Therefore a dynamic warm-up is a great way to prepare the body for athletics.

Post Activity Static Stretching –

The best time for static stretching is after a sports-related activity, when the muscles are still nice and warm. In this state, muscle fibers are more pliable and less prone to strain. Each stretch should be held at least 30 seconds.

Below you will find instructions for a static stretching program that can be effective for athletes.


Do 3x/day holding for each stretch 30 seconds, one of which can be after practice.

Things to remember: Stretch to the point of mild discomfort. KEEP BREATHING!

Area Stretching How to do it
High Hamstrings Lying on back, rope wrapped around foot, pull leg straight.
Lower Hamstrings Lying on back, rope wrapped around foot, knee to chest, pull foot so that leg starts to straighten out.
Glutes Lying on back with knee to chest, pull to opposite shoulder.
Piriformis Cross right ankle above left knee, pull left knee to chest. Will stretch right side. Repeat for opposite leg.
IT band Standing, place outside of right foot on table, allow knee to drop out to side, lean forward at waist.
Repeat for opposite leg.
Back Pull right leg across body, breaking at waist and keeping shoulders flat. Repeat for opposite leg.
Groin Butterfly and push down on knees.
Quads Laying on stomach, pull foot to butt OR standing, pull foot to butt keeping stomach tight and chest up.
Hip Flexors Standing, lunge forward keeping back foot straight, keep chest up, and push butt forward.
Bucket Stretch/
Hip Flexor Tendon
Kneel on one knee with other foot in front in a lunge position, place back foot up on bucket behind you.
Push hips forward. Repeat on opposite side.
Elbow to Instep/
Deep Hip Flexor
Kneel on right knee with left foot in front in a lunge position, step out with left foot into a long stride. Push hips toward the
ground, try to touch left elbow to left instep. Repeat on opposite leg.
Calves Standing on step with heel off edge, with knee STRAIGHT.
Achilles Standing on step with heel off edge, with knee BENT.

How do you work on your flexibility in sport?

Share your tips in the comments.

Concussions in Young Athletes

young athletes and concussions

Concussions in young athletes can occur with any sport. Whether its high impact sports like football, soccer, and basketball, or lower impact sports such as track and field, tennis, and cross-country. Risks exist with any physical activity.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that alters the way a brain functions. It can have a negative impact on its victim for years to come. Although a blow to the head is a common cause of concussions, they can also occur with violent shaking of a person’s head and upper body. This rapid movement makes the brain shift back and forth inside the skull. The result is a twisting of delicate brain tissue.

Concussion damage can range from mild to severe. It is important to note that 90% of all concussions occur without a loss of consciousness. All concussions are potentially serious and can result in complications. These include prolonged brain damage or, in the worst cases, death if not recognized and managed properly.

What do I do if I suspect my child has suffered a concussion?

Signs and symptoms can appear immediately or take a few hours or days to show up. In other words, concussions and their symptoms are unpredictable. This means that young athletes, parents, and coaches need to be ready to spot the symptoms. If an athlete reports any symptoms of a concussion, or you notice the symptoms and signs, immediately remove the athlete from activity and have them evaluated by a medical professional. Next, alert the child’s parent, coach, athletic trainer, and school administrator to initiate the concussion management protocol. If concussion is suspected, the athlete may not return to activity regardless of how mild the symptoms, or how quickly they subside, without written medical clearance from an appropriate health care professional.

What can happen if my child keeps playing a sport with a concussion or returns too soon?

Continuing to play with a concussion leaves the young athlete vulnerable to sustaining a second concussion. If a second concussion occurs before the first one has healed, there is an increased risk of significant brain damage. In the best case, this can lead to much slower recovery. However, it also comes with the risk of severe brain swelling (Second Impact Syndrome) leading to devastating and even fatal consequences.

What are the steps to recovery for concussions in young athletes?

The first step in gaining full concussion recovery is mental rest. This is essential for the brain to heal. Activities requiring concentration and attention, including homework, use of electronic devices, such as computers, tablets, video games, and texting, as well as exposure to loud noises and bright lights, may worsen symptoms and delay recovery. Students may need their academic workload modified while they are recovering from their concussion. This may include staying home from school for a few days, followed by a lightened school schedule, and then gradual returning to a normal schedule. Gradual return to physical activity should only take place once the student is back in the classroom full-time, is symptom free, and cleared by a health care provider.

When should a young athlete return to practice or competition after a concussion?

An athlete must first complete a graduated return-to-play physical activity progression under the supervision of a medical professional, as outlined in Max’s Law (OAR 581-022-0421). This law requires Oregon school districts to implement concussion management guidelines for all student athletes.

concussions in young athletesNext, the athlete must have written clearance (per Oregon State Law HB 348) from a health care professional, releasing them to full practice and competition. Until these steps take place, the student is not cleared for practice or competition.

What’s most important is the health of our young athletes. Moreover, while these protocols, symptom assessments, and recommendations for concussion awareness and management may seem cumbersome, they are necessary in order to keep our athletes safe and sound on the field, at home, and for the long term.


For additional information, please visit the following websites: