New products, regulations in U.S. aim to reduce concussions in sports
New safety regulations for football helmets in the U.S. reflect an international concern for reducing concussions. ©Pell Studio /shutterstock.com
Published Monday, June 23, 2014 7:38PM EDT
Reflecting worldwide interest in reducing sports-related concussions, the U.S. National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) has approved new regulation standards for American football helmets.
As early as June 2016, manufacturers will be required to comply with safety standards more specific to concussions than current regulations.
"The revised standard approved today introduces methods for testing certain concussion-causing forces," says Dr. Robert Cantu, NOCSAE vice president and co-founder of the Sports Legacy Institute. "Our next step will be to establish a threshold that helmets must meet to reduce concussion risk."
No helmet is concussion proof, and according to Dr. Cantu, the concept is unlikely because concussions happen for many, vastly different reasons.
Increased research and improved technology are urgently necessary to reduce their numbers, he says.
In the U.S., the increasing focus on preventing concussions comes from a 2013 report by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, citing rising emergency room visits per year by young people for sports-related head injuries coupled with a lack attention to detail in the data.
U.S. President Barack Obama led a May 29 summit meeting to develop a plan to make youth sports safer, during which the pressure on young athletes and the "push through the pain" culture was mentioned.
Earlier this spring, Force Impact Technologies announced FITGuard, a sensor-equipped mouth-guard that activates an LED display, alerting the user if the force of an impact is potentially dangerous.
According to Dr. Cantu, concussion prevention research is still in its embryonic stage.
"NOCSAE will continue to challenge the scientific, medical and manufacturing communities to explore solutions for enhanced athlete safety," he says.
The effort by NOCSAE reflects growing concern on an international level.
In South Africa, the Leatt Corporation, specializing in personal protective athletic gear, recently unveiled two unique helmet prototypes for off-road motorcycle and cycling use.
The helmets cover the face, and were designed in the interest of protecting against the sort of "low-energy impact" that is the leading cause of concussions in the aforementioned activities.
"We are very excited about the upcoming introduction of our new line of helmets, which are the culmination of years of research, development and testing by our international team of advanced engineers and designers," CEO Sean Macdonald said.
Those helmets are to be released in the coming year.