Battling Concussions Head-On
By Mike Phelps
As preseason football camps swing into gear across the country, concussion prevention and awareness has once again crept its way into the news. Here, Training & Conditioning takes a look at the latest concussion news, on the gridiron and beyond.
Helmet technology is an important aspect of preventing concussions. At Syracuse University, where new Head Coach Doug Marrone is attempting to rejuvenate a struggling program, several members of the team have taken steps to revamp the Orange's headwear. Defensive tackle Anthony Perkins was one of four Syracuse players to try out the new Riddell Revo Speed helmet during spring practice, and now 29 players have begun wearing the new lid.
The helmet shell features a distinctive look due to the corrugated indentations on the side and back, which add strength to key areas of the helmet. The face masks also have a more angled look, which is designed to help deflect blows, and the chin straps have inflatable cheek pads to ensure a tight fit.
Head Equipment Manager Kyle Fetterly told the Syracuse Post-Standard Perkins said he likes the Revo Speed because "it fits tighter, is more snug and comfortable.
"I don't care about all the bells and whistles," adds Fetterly, "I care about protecting the head."
The brand new football program at North Forney (Texas) High School is also using a new helmet this year, aimed at reducing concussions. The team will be wearing the Xenith X-1, which is designed to absorb the shock of a blow to the head and spread it out. Dan Cornwall, a Xenith sales representative, told WFAA-TV the inside of the helmet is like "a bonnet that cinches snugly to the head, covered in black air discs."
North Forney quarterback Stephen Buckley told WFAA-TV he likes the way the helmet absorbs a hard hit. "It's a lot less painful than a normal helmet that I've had before," he added.
Concussions also made news recently on the baseball diamond, after New York Mets infielder David Wright took a fastball of the head from San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain. After lying on the ground for several minutes, Wright walked off the field and was eventually transported to the hospital, where he underwent a CT scan, which came back negative.
Former Met Ryan Church, now with the Atlanta Braves, suffered two concussions last season in New York, and advised Wright not to rush back to the field like he did.
"He's going to need to rest," Church told the New York Daily News. "I don't know how bad it was, but a concussion is a concussion. You need time. Don't try to be a hero. Don't let anyone make you play."
Just days before suffering the concussion, Wright was quoted in a New York Times story on Rawlings' newest batting helmet, the S100, which can withstand the impact of a 100 mile per hour fastball. Most other helmets, by comparison, can only withstand pitches up to 70 miles per hour.
The helmet features a layer of expanded polypropylene, the hard, foam-like material used in bicycle helmets. It also has a composite insert built into the frame that helps it retain its shape upon impact.
"If it provides more protection, then I'm all for it," Wright told the New York Times. "I'm not worried about style or looking good out there. I'm worried about keeping my melon protected."
Other players, however, did not share Wright's sentiment.
"No, I am absolutely not wearing that," Mets teammate Jeff Francoeur told the New York Times. "I could care less what they say, I'm not wearing it. There's got to be a way to have a more protective helmet without all that padding. It's brutal. We're going to look like a bunch of clowns out there."
Rawlings spent four years developing the S100, trying to combine safety with comfort and style. Even if Major Leaguers are weary of the design, the company is hoping to introduce it in high schools, colleges, and the minor leagues, so players become used to the model and simply bring it with them to the Majors when they get there.
"I think potentially, at the minor league level, we could have greater participation," Mike Thompson, Rawlings' senior vice president for marketing and business development told the New York Times. "But it will be up to the clubs and how baseball wants to handle it."
The S100 will be available to all MLB players in September. Once the season is complete, a safety advisory committee of union and MLB officials will make a recommendation.
Mike Phelps is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.
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