A new study exploring the helmet fitting techniques and concussions among high school athletes found that proper fitting of helmets could help reduce the risk of concussion.
In the current study, Dr. Eugene Hong of Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia and co-author Dr. Tracey Covassin of Michigan State University analyzed responses from 289 surveys of directors of athletics from Pennsylvania and New Jersey high schools.
The authors found that helmets were often ineffective because they were not fitted properly to the players. The study found that high school football players are at high risk for head injury as coaches or other individuals fit their helmets rather than a certified athletic trainer. It was noted that in most teams high school coaches fit helmets.
The percentage of high school coaches fitting helmet was noted to be 43.4% while the percentage of athletic trainers fitting helmets was found to be 23.6%. The percentage of other individuals fitting the helmets was noted to be at 11.8%.
Dr. Eugene Hong said in a statement that "while professional and college teams have people trained in how to properly fit an athlete with a helmet, most high school and youth programs do not."
Over one million students participate in high school football each year and it is estimated that these players experience about 30,000 to 250,000 concussions annually.
Hong said "certified athletic trainers trained in proper fitting were employing more techniques to fit helmets than coaches were" and added that while coaches did a good job, they did not use proper techniques as frequently as certified athletic trainers.
The study noted that fitting the player's facemask properly two inches away from the nose, placing the helmet one inch above player's eyebrows, and placing the helmet's chin straps an equal distance apart were the areas commonly mishandled while fitting the helmets.
Hong said "prevention of concussion is really the best treatment" and added that while proper fitting helmets may not prevent all concussions "if we can improve even a tiny bit, then I'll feel good about that as a professional."
He said a 10-step fitting process commonly used in professional and college football may make fitting helmets more accurate and safer and help protect young kids as they take to the field.
Dr. Hong also recommended checking the helmets regularly throughout the season as the helmet fit keeping changing over the course of the season because of collisions, wear and tear, and the growth of the player.
The study will be published in an upcoming issue of the American College of Sports Medicine journal, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.