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Schutt Sports Aids in Development of New Technology, but Concussion-Proof Helmet Remains Elusive

September 8th, 2012 at 1:54 PM
By Dan Benton

When New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning took the field for the first time during mini-camp this year, several fans were quick to point out that he was sporting a new helmet. It was noteworthy because Easy-E had been wearing the same traditional helmet since his time at Ole Miss, and the transition was unique and unexpected. Alas, he had decided it was time to upgrade and donned the brand new 2012 Schutt Sports Vengeance – the best looking and most revolutionary helmet on the market.

“Up until about two years ago, he was wearing the same helmet he had at Ole Miss,” Glenn Beckmann of Schutt Sports told Giants 101. “We finally convinced him to move to the AiR XP, and then he took that really vicious hit [against the Jets]. He then switched to the DNA, before moving to the Vengeance this season.”

All Giants fans undoubtedly remember that moment against the Jets in the 2010 preseason when Manning took a series of brutal hits after a miscommunication with running back Brandon Jacobs.

Jacobs was the first to hit Manning, catching him under the chin and loosening his chinstrap. He was then blindsided by Jets linebacker Calvin Pace, popping the helmet off his head as he was flung forward where he clipped the helmet of safety Jim Leonard, opening a major gash on his forehead.

It was a terrifying moment -one the Jets later reveled in- but one that could have been much, much worse.

“The helmet absolutely did its job,” Beckmann said. “He got hit and then he got hit again, and the chinstrap slid off, resulting in the helmet coming off. We don’t like that he got cut, but he ultimately walked away without a serious injury.”

Head injuries, and namely concussions, have become a focal point of player safety across the NFL over the last several years. With the tragic deaths of Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, Ray Easterling and others, the issue has been thrust into the National spotlight. A common rallying cry has been that the NFL, and companies like Schutt Sports, need to develop better, concussion-proof helmets. Unfortunately, it's lost on many that the purpose of helmets aren't necessarily to protect the brain, but to protect the skull.

“It’s very easy to understand why people think that helmets do prevent concussions. It’s a head injury and the helmet is on your head,” Beckmann said. “Think about it as if you had an egg. You can shake that egg and not break the shell, but the yolk is still scrambled. We’ve figured out how to protect eggshells, but we’ve never been able to figure out to protect the yolk from being scrambled.”

That's not to say millions of dollars of research and countless hours of time haven't gone into creating a concussion-proof helmet, because that's the long-term goal of every helmet manufacturer. And eventually, it's something that's going to happen … but just not a realistic solution for the foreseeable future.

“The brain floats inside the skull, so in order to prevent concussions, we need to figure out how to slow the deceleration of the brain when there’s an impact. Somebody sometime is going to figure it out, and when they do, we'll have the first concussion-proof helmet," Beckmann said. “That’s the Holy Grail for all of us, but right now, with the technology and knowledge that we have, we just don’t have what it takes to get there. I do believe eventually we’ll get there, but I don’t know if it will be in our lifetime.”

Developments in helmet technology, including the "standoff," which is the space between a player's head and the helmet shell, as well as the padding that fills it, has aided in the prevention of concussions, but can't eliminate them completely. In some aspects, it's able to absorb the impact and help avoid a violent roll of the brain, but it all boils down to mathematics – angle of hits, acceleration and deceleration, torque, dehydration (does play a part in concussions) and so on.

“No helmet is concussion proof just by the nature of the injury itself. Helmets do two things. They protect the skull and absorb impact. The impact absorption is important, but we’ll never go so far as to say ‘this will reduce the risk of concussions,’ " Beckmann said. "It’s truthful to say we’re designing helmets to reduce the risk of concussion, but we won’t say that helmets can reduce the risk of concussion because there are too many factors that helmets don’t have an effect on."

"We want to educate people on what helmets can and can’t do, but we also want to avoid a false sense of security that if people get a higher grade of helmet that they’re not going to get hurt …because that’s just not true.”

Until recently, players were equally as misinformed about the purpose and functionality of helmets as the casual fan was. Schutt Sports commonly received requests for concussion-proof helmets from NFL players … many of whom had no idea no such product existed. In fact, it wasn't until the recent media attention, spawned from the deaths of the aforementioned players, that current athlete's began educate themselves on their own equipment.

Research and development of that "Holy Grail" will continue, but ultimately the safety of a player comes down to what happens on the field. A good helmet will prevent damage to the skull, but a concussion will and any variety of neck injury remain a very realistic possibility due in large part to the violence and speed of the sport itself. And until scientists can figure out how to stabilize a floating brain, no helmet in this world is going to stop a player from sustaining a brain injury.


Tags: Brandon Jacobs, Dave Duerson, Eli Manning, Football, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Schutt Sports

10 Responses to “Schutt Sports Aids in Development of New Technology, but Concussion-Proof Helmet Remains Elusive”

  1.  fanfor55years says:

    The NFL should pour money into research because if they don’t get this solved nearly every player in 20-30 years will be desperate kids from deeply impoverished nations who have decided to risk themselves for the chance to escape desperate poverty. No American mother will allow her child to play. It is a true crisis and they need to attack it.

    The solution will eventually be helmets that not only absorb shock but allow the entire head to move so the skull and brain movement stay closer to the same rate of acceleration when a force is applied. They will also need sensors that make adjustments in very small fractions of a second. And I also think they need to put some padding outside the top of the helmet to reduce the force coming from a hit that is led by the helmet of a defender. They canaletto up for the noise that fans want by simulating it much like electric cars now simulate the sound of a gasoline engine so pedestrians know it’s coming.

  2.  BillyS says:

    I agree that they need to put more money into the research. It’s a very serious thing. Players are bigger, faster, and stronger than in the past. They launch themselves at one another and the head/neck just can’t withstand that kind of force. Their brain is like an egg in a jar when it comes to the impact…and the end result isn’t pretty. I’m actually surprised there aren’t more head injuries — though there very well may be some that still go unreported.

  3.  Krow says:

    I’ve been hit just as hard with a soccer headball. And there’s zero protection. Not to mention every martial art or combat sport. I took more head shots in an average Kendo tournament then I ever got playing High School football.

    The same Moms who shy their children away from football will happily drag them off to the soccer pitch or down to the dojo.

    The difference is that no one is suing those sports. They’re not in the newspapers. They don’t have any money. Because that’t the real reason … money.

    Sports have a certain risk. All of them. I suggest all children be bubble-wrapped at birth. And not released till they graduate from college. Needless to say all sports should be immediately eliminated.

  4.  Krow says:

    Giovanni Antonio Canal (28 October 1697 – 19 April 1768[1]) better known as Canaletto (Italian: [kana?letto]), was a Venetian painter of landscapes, or vedute, of Venice. He was also an important printmaker in etching.

    iPhones are very cultured.

  5.  G-MenFan says:

    The “dark side” of America. Over litigious nonsense.

    They have the surveys of the players who say that they would play for the millions now, even knowing they’d die from the results at 50. Yet, here we are, staring at an enormous class action lawsuit that could end pro football.

    Just stupid. And then I have to watch all the smug “know it all”s on television gloating about the Saints players having their suspensions overturned. These talking head morons don’t realize that the decision Goodell made was based on exposure to risk, not a locker room bounty. Once it became a known event, he had no choice. He had to protect the league down the road from lawsuits. Yet, the geniuses call him out about it. None of them are worth a dime in the “real world” without football, but they come down squarely on the side of the players who will one day sue the league into extinction. Myopic imbeciles.

    •  BillyS says:

      Goodell can never please everyone. If he doesn’t suspend the players then others would sue him for not doing enough to protect players; and then he suspends them and the players sue anyway. There are things Goodell has done that has pissed me off, but I don’t think he was in the wrong in any way whatsoever. And the fact that players disrespect the crap out of him is quite annoying. I think it was Vilma who co-owned a restaurant who put Goodell’s picture near the entrance with a “do not serve this man” sign. I get that Vilma isn’t his biggest fan, but if I said something about my boss publicly I’m sure I’d be in trouble in some way. I just hate these players who want to have their cake and eat it too. They’re greedy. I say they should up the $$ that goes into the after football assistance programs since they talk about putting their future at risk.

      •  BigBlueGiant says:

        Villa’s celebration of his suspension being lifted will be short lived. This time when Goddell administers his authority, he will make sure he states the correct wording for the suspensions which is “conduct detrimental to the game” instead of his “intent to injure” which was the reason the arbitration panal ruled for the players on Friday. When Goddell reinstates suspensions, the panal and judge won’t be able to change or lift the suspension due to new CBA rules which Vilma signed

        nfl don’t mess around.

  6.  Dirt says:

    It’s gonna pisz me off to no end when Vilma is a member of a class action lawsuit someday having to do with safety issues.

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