Loose Helmets Tied to Worse Teen Concussions

New research shows that high school football players who wear loose helmets are more susceptible to concussions than those who have helmets that fit correctly.

The highest incidence of concussion symptoms in young athletes who had their helmets removed were those with loose helmets. These symptoms included hyper-excitability, drowsiness and sensitivity to noise. The study also found that their concussions lasted longer and were more severe.

Dr. Barry Boden, study author, said that concussions can be very complicated injuries. However, loose helmets could increase the risk of suffering more severe concussions. He is a sports medicine specialist at The Orthopaedic Center, Rockville, MD.

Boden said that although there has been a lot of interest in concussions, the focus has not been on the fit of a helmet.  “So we thought this study would be unique and original, and wanted to see if there were any issues that contributed to concussions,” Boden added. 

Concussions can be described as mild traumatic brain injuries. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these injuries can be caused either by a jolt or bump to the head.

Sports injuries, car accidents, falls, and other trauma can all cause concussions. According to the CDC, symptoms include headaches, memory and thinking problems, as well as emotional and sleep disorders.

USA Football, the United States’ national governing body of amateur football, issued a rule in 2012 that required high school players to wear proper helmets.

Boden stated that it was not yet clear how effective this rule could be.

Discussions about safety in college and professional football have been dominated by the lingering effects of football-related concussions.

Boden and his colleagues reviewed nine-years of national data on high school sports-related injuries. This data contained information about more than first-time 4,500 concussions.

Concussions suffered by football players who had their helmets fitted incorrectly were more common in those who had properly fitting helmets. According to the study authors, an athletic trainer determined helmet fit.

The study also found that concussion victims who were wearing helmets lined with an air bladder had greater light and noise sensitivity. The study also revealed that they had longer concussions than players who were wearing foam- or gel-lined helmets.

According to researchers, helmets with air bladders may deflate and leave it looser on the head.

Dr. Mark Riederer is a sports medicine expert, but was not involved in the new research. He said that all high schools should have athletic trainers who are able to check the fit of football helmets prior to players taking the field.

Riederer stated that he wouldn’t rely on parents, coaches or kids to verify this. He is a professor of pediatric orthopaedic surgery and sports medicine at University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor.

Riederer stated, “If your head is not secured well in the helmet itself… it doesn’t surprise me that you’d have a higher concussion severity.”

Updated: 01/25/2022