BS in Industrial Technology
With so many studies being conducted on professional football players regarding concussions and other related brain injuries, it’s amazing that such an important demographic has been missed. While NFL players are just as subjected to serious injuries as anyone else or even more so, it is important to remember that these players are outfitted, in most cases, with top-of-the-line equipment -- especially their helmets. If the focus is shifted to a younger demographic, youth football players in middle school and high school, the equipment is far less advanced and in a vast majority of cases, has been previously used by a number of other players. This is no exception when it comes to the one piece of equipment that arguably protects the most important part of the human body: the brain.
Football helmets in the NFL already get a great amount of attention when it comes to their effectiveness of protecting a grown man’s head. For youth players with still-developing brains, however, helmets are an even greater necessity. This is especially true when public schools are facing budget cuts and can no longer afford to replace helmets after they have been used. In some cases, schools are requiring parents to provide their own helmets for their children. If the family is wealthy enough to afford a safe and proper helmet, this is not a problem. Unfortunately, it is no surprise that many families cannot afford a helmet that protects their child’s head as much as it needs to be. The lack of proper equipment increases the chances of concussion and, later in life, increases the chance of brain diseases, such as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE has serious consequences and has even been studied as a factor in suicides in former college and professional football players.
A less expensive, and usually effective, alternative to helmet replacement year after year, is reconditioning. This can be anywhere to one-sixth to one-third of the price of helmet replacement. In many cases, reconditioning can even be as good as replacing the helmet for players that are not impacted as often such as kickers and receivers. Riddell, a prominent and major brand in football helmets, explicitly recommends that helmets should be replaced at least every three seasons at the youth level. More importantly, there are also laws put in place by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) regarding the reconditioning and refurbishing time-lines.
This study has the purpose of reaching all grade schools across America. A large number of schools have tight budgets and student athletes are not always at the top of the budgeting list. All too often, this is leading to improper safety equipment maintenance, which is something that cannot be taken lightly. As mentioned, concussions are the most common injury when high impact levels are considered in football, and these concussions are a very small symptom of a disease that could develop if proper precautions in safety are not taken from day one.
By performing the same helmet impact testing on both college-level (which are reconditioned annually) and youth-level helmets, it is expected to prove that youth helmets are not as safe as adult helmets and that youth helmets need to be reconditioned or replaced more often as college level helmets are. It is important to note, for the purposes of this study, that both levels of helmets have materials and safety specifications on par with each other due to the need to comply with certain industry standards.
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