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Helmet Add-Ons: Do They Lower Concussion Risk?

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Helmets are worn for many different sports, helping to protect the wearer from concussion and serious injury in the event of head impact.

Athletes can choose from a multitude of different types, as well as add-ons such as helmet pads or external coatings. But a new US study suggests these add-ons don´t do much to lower the risk of concussion.

“Our study suggests that despite many products targeted at reducing concussions in players, there is no magic concussion prevention product on the market at this time,” said study author John Lloyd, PhD.

The researchers used a crash test dummy head and neck equipped with sensors to simulate head impact and assess the potential harm caused. They evaluated four helmet add-ons – Guardian Cap, UnEqual Technologies´ Concussion Reduction Technology, Shockstrips and Helmet Glide – fitted onto two different American football helmets.

In a series of tests from drop heights of 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0 metres, the researchers measured linear acceleration, angular velocity and angular accelerations of the head in response to impacts.

They found that, compared to helmets without the add-ons, those fitted with the Guardian Cap, Concussion Reduction Technology and Shockstrips reduced linear accelerations by about 11%, but only reduced angular accelerations by 2%, while Helmet Glide was shown to have no effect.

“These findings are important because angular accelerations are believed to be the major biomechanical forces involved in concussion,” Lloyd explained. “Few add-on products have undergone even basic biomechanical evaluation. Hopefully, our research will lead to more rigorous testing of helmets and add-ons.”

The findings of the study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology´s 67th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, in April.