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Battling Concussions with Helmets

Ever since I could walk, I was put on ice skates. As young as 6 years old I was learning to skate, and at 7 years old I was playing in ice hockey games. When they teach you to play hockey, you learn the basics, from passing, shooting, and the fundamentals of the game. But one thing I was taught at every level of hockey was, when you go into the boards, keep your head up. Coaches, referees, and parents always were reminding players of this message, to prevent a break in the neck. But now more than ever, coach, referees, and parents are being taught a new message, all about concussions. With over 3.8 million concussions happening in the United States each year due to athletic and recreational activities, it should be something important to learn about. Ice hockey has a high risk, because ice hockey is most common athletic game for concussions. In order to decrease the amount of concussions each year, new scientific discoveries need to be made in a new helmet that lowers the risk of concussion.

In Ice hockey a helmet is one of the essential pieces of equipment mandatory for all hockey players. A helmet is worn to protect the player’s head from potential injury by pucks, sticks, boards, other players, and/or hitting the ice. A hockey helmet is made up of three main parts, there is the hard shell that protects the player against friction, rough surfaces, and also helps distribute the force of impact. There is the inner padding that absorbs the force and also distributes the force. Then there is the hardware that holds the helmet together. If this sounds like protection to many, how come so many people are getting concussions even while wearing their helmet?

The issue with helmets is that the helmet protects your skull from cracking, but what it doesn’t do is protect your brain from sliding around in your skull from impact, giving you signs and symptoms of a concussion. The real issue is how you can create a helmet that will decrease the risk of concussions. Recent studies from John R. Fowler, MD, a PGY-5 resident at Temple Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Philadelphia took data from over 1,398 high school students with concussions determining if certain helmets were more likely to be linked with brain injury. In his studies he found that although there are advanced helmet designs, it has not prevented or lowered risk of concussion. He also found that a properly fitted helmet can reduce the chances of an athlete becoming unconscious after injury. With this information, athletes need to be taught how to have a helmet properly fitted and how to wear the helmet properly as well.

Still people want to know when helmets that prevent concussions will be made. Chairman of U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Inez Tenenbaum, said "Even with our push for improved safety equipment, it is vital that parents, coaches and players understand that there is no such thing as a concussion-proof helmet," he believes that the greatest way to reduce concussions is “safer and smarter play."
Many helmet manufacturers are making large advances in helmet research. A company names ForceCap Technologies in Toronto tested a patent-pending air-filled sack inside hockey helmets. The president of the company, Jeff Archbold, said that the helmet works like an airbag “if you bump someone in front of you, it doesn't go off, but if you have a real impact, it does. If a hockey player gets knocked hard enough to deploy the bladder, player and coach both know the hit is worthy of attention from a trainer or doctor,” Archbold said. Getting attention right away will help lower the athlete’s chance of having long-term damage to the brain. Another large advancement in helmet design is from 5 specialists from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, who created a helmet patented Multi-Directional Impact Protection System, or MIPS. The MIPS has a low-friction layer between the outer and inner shell of a helmet that absorbs energy from hits and slanted hits to the head. The amazing results found from using this helmet is that MIPS helmet decreases rotational acceleration of the brain by up to 50 percent, unlike the conventional helmets. This company is currently trying to bring these helmets into the NHL and NFL.

It is important to realize that having a concussion proof helmet is nearly impossible to create, but there is ways to decrease the amounts of concussions with better fitted helmets, helmets that can detect a hard hit, and helmets that decrease the energy on your brain. With safer play, and new rules to decrease hard hits and head checks, concussions should be decreasing. Concussions are no joke, the long term and short term effects are important to take care of, if an athlete gets two concussions in a close proximity to each other it could lead to death. As an athlete myself, I am realizing the importance in concussions, and hope that other athletes take concussions seriously. One day, I hope that all players will be able to play ice hockey, or any sport they want and never get a concussion, but in reality I hope that helmets will be improved decreasing or even eliminating concussions.

Works Cited
"Advanced Helmet Designs Donâ t Appear to Reduce Concussion." Advanced Helmet Designs Donâ t Appear to Reduce Concussion. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Jan. 2013.
"Concussion Law (Massachusetts)." Concussion Law (Massachusetts). N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Jan. 2013.
"Concussions." Childrens Hostpital. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Jan. 2013. <>.
"From Solar in Borneo to Buzz Aldrin on Mars: Our Favorite Long Reads of 2012." MIT Technology Review. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Jan. 2013.
"Helmets at the Center of Battle to Tame Concussions." Athletic Business. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Jan. 2013.
"Mayo Clinic, USA Hockey to Youth Hockey Players: 'Heads Up, Don't Duck'" ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 Dec. 2012. Web. 01 Jan. 2013.
"Teen Athletes Long-term Effects of Concussions." Baltimore Sun. N.p., 19 Sept. 2012. Web. 06 Jan. 2013.

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