The helmet first began as a strap on leather helmet in the early years of the 20th century. It was developed as such for the better part of 40 years before John Riddell and his son created hard plastic helmets. From there they have been developed to what we have today. The helmet was originally developed to prevent head injuries and skull fractures. The face mask was included to protect the good looks of players. But it wasn’t till the being of this century that the focus of helmet design changed to better protect the brain and prevent brain trauma including concussions. It took over a century for us to decide to protect one of if not the most important part of our body being the brain.
This is an extract from Technology Review on the new helmet and the issues with concussions:
From the extract you can see that Riddell is taking big steps forward and that we have a long way till we fully understand the extent of concussions and brain related trauma and diseases.
The issue I have is what about the rest of us? As the article says the new helmet will be shipped to all Division I colleges and it does cost over 400 dollars. My issue is the game is much bigger than just the NFL and college. These guys are fully funded and have easy access to this equipment. I believe some highly funded high schools would be the same. But what about the under paid high schools that don’t have the funding? Then start looking aboard, Mexico, Canada and Japan have numerous teams, most probably don’t have much of this gear. Then go further afield to places like Europe, New Zealand and here in Australia. These places probably find it harder to get this equipment and are still using very old style gear. I know for a fact that here in Australia that we are not fully equipped, sometimes teams share gear so that players are fully equipped. I would say the same is for New Zealand teams.
An example of this situation is I know that on my team that only one player has a Riddell Revolution helmet and he won that in a team fundraising auction, it was the main item in the auction and got a lot of bids. Do remember this is a helmet that came out almost a decade ago. This means the rest of us are using equipment that doesn’t protect us against concussions and brain trauma. Plus the gear we do use the helmets haven’t been reconditioned in years.
Another example was a friend of mine went to a gridiron camp here in Australia otherwise known as the Down Under Bowl. A few Australian teams take on a few American teams in a competition. Anyway my friend was having a conversation with an American player about his speed and skill and ways to improve it. My friend said there wasn’t much he could do about that (he is very tall). To that the American player said ‘Well lets at least do something about your helmet, it is ancient.’ So hopefully you start to see the position that we are in and I would think many other players around the global are in too.
For us in Australia to purchase this equipment we have to go through third party vendors as Riddell and most similar companies do not ship outside the US. This takes more time and extra cost, plus is an exercise in its self to do, which many players don’t have the time or the money to do so.
I take issue with the cost of the product. I understand Riddell need to make money and this is their top of the range product. But you are making parents and players skip on the safety equipment that they really need because it is close to being unaffordable. Thus we are putting a price on tomorrow’s youth, their health and well being.
For me personally I take issue to this, the cost, the availability to the product. A bit of my story, I am not that old. Only 21 years of age and I love my gridiron, I am in my 5 season of gridiron having started playing when I was 17. Over those 21 years I have suffered 3 concussions. The first one I came off a scooter (the foot push ones, like razor not a bike scooter) head first into the tarmac (no helmet, stupid me) in the 7th grade. I suffered headaches and migraines over the next few years having them frequently, every few months. The next concussion happened in year 11 during a school rugby league game. I made a tackle down the sideline. I believe I connected the side of my head on the player’s hip then he landed on top of me, smashing my head into the ground again. The third was last year during a gridiron game. I came down from the safety position and made a tackle on the RB on a sweep play. I believe I did a similar thing to the second concussion. I got my head across the player’s body and connected his hip on the side of my head. Also I was giving up probably 30 kilos to this guy (do the math, that is over 60 pounds). This was by far the worst concussion that I have had, the others I came too pretty quickly. This one I don’t remember going back to the huddle and the next play. I came too on the sideline talking to the trainer and had a green tint in my eye sight for the next 10 mins (so the lower bottom part of my vision had a green look to it).
My concussions compared to someone like Jack Bechta who shared in his Damaged Goods article that “As a former NCAA college player, I suffered 3 concussions. One so bad I didn’t know where I was for 36 hours and couldn’t remember the names of my teammates. My freshman year in college I was taught to block by leading with the butt of my helmet.” are not as bad. That probably goes back to the competitive level I play at.
I have been lucky that my concussions haven’t happened often with several years in between each and not to the extent of some other concussions. But it is just that, remember that article extract says that small repeated impacts to the head are just as if not more worse than suffering concussions.
In sad news a union player recently suffered brain and spinal injuries making a tackle that he won’t recover from. Click here for more. A shock reminder that it can all end so suddenly.
Since the greater focus on head injuries the last few years I have been monitoring the news and following all information about concussions and brain injuries I can, as I worry for myself. You know I want to grow old and see my grand kids come of age, I don’t want to leave a young family behind or force them to take care of me from injuries I suffered playing this sport.
I have read studies where they say that anymore than 3 concussions and you start to get into the danger zone where you can create permanent damage. That scares me, I will be honest.
For me I will invest in one of these new helmets, but it won’t be till next year when I have the money and the time to get one because for me this is an invest, the helmet I probably will have for the next 5 or so years. By then I also hope the price comes down so they are easier to afford. This won’t solve all the problems as I could still get concussed. But it will go a long way to easy my mind and better protect me then what I currently use. I do worry till then that I may suffer that head injury that puts me over the edge. I want to play this sport for the next 10 years. I don’t want to give up the sport I love at 21.
Painful remind of what happens when it goes wrong, these kids are 7.
I will open it up to discussion then. What are some ideas that could be implemented to provide better equipment for players around the world? ~ Aussie.