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 helmet 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 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2987604/
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¶ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4981070/