How Safe are Your High School’s Football Helmets?

The 17-year-old defensive lineman Jared Troyano of Pennsbury High School was wrapping up a tackle late in the first quarter on Friday night, Aug. 25, when he banged helmets with another player.

First came the collision. Then came the confusion.

"I was real dazed for a minute," said Troyano, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound junior from Fairless Hills, Bucks County. "I was so confused I was completely out of it."

No football helmet can guarantee protection against a concussion. Troyano, who was wearing a top-of-the-line Riddell Revolution Speed helmet, sat out the rest of the Falcons' victory that night and watched the next seven games from the sidelines as he recovered from a concussion. During his time off, his mother, Amy, said the effects of the injury made her son miserable, "like a different person."

Football players at all levels report concussions every season, and helmet manufacturers have scrambled to incorporate the latest safety technology into their brands.

"If you look at football in 2017 compared to football in 2011, it's drastically different," said Stefan Duma, a biomedical engineering and sciences professor at Virginia Tech University. "There have been major changes in terms of helmet technology."

In 2011, Duma and a team of researchers on football helmet safety unveiled the Virginia Tech helmet 5-star rating system that ranks a helmet's safety features from no stars (not recommended) to 1-star (marginal), 2-star (adequate), 3-star (good), 4-star (very good) and 5-star (best), with the 5-stars regarded as most able to reduce concussion risk.

A local survey of helmets in the Philadelphia area showed that more than 40 percent of the 2,330 helmets used in the 2017 fall season were rated 5-star. The 40 percent is up from 25 percent from just two years ago. The excellent article provides statistics based on helmet safety.

Hawk Tackle believes the progress of helmet technology is important, but that tackling technique can also play a major factor in the ongoing safety of young football players. 

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