Helmets don't reduce the risk of concussion, but have other benefits

2014-02-21 08:12:07 by Dr. Joe Congeni - Director of Sports Medicine, as posted on the inside.akronchildrens.org blog.

Flick/slapstix55 Flick/slapstix55

Parents often ask me if there's one type or brand of helmet on the market that I would recommend to help reduce their child's risk of concussion. You may be surprised to learn that research shows helmet use doesn't reduce the risk of concussion at all.

Today I spoke with WAKR morning show host Ray Horner about this topic.

Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion. 



HORNER: Our next guest on 1590 WAKR is our good friend Dr. Joe Congeni from the Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children's Hospital. Good morning, Joe.

DR. CONGENI: Thanks Ray. How ya doing this morning?

HORNER: I'm doing real well. A lot better than yesterday. I will say that.

Dr. Joe Congeni Dr. Joe Congeni

DR. CONGENI: This week on Monday there was a deadline for accepting grants for concussion research. This is part of the NFL settlement. They put $20 million in and it was matched by GE. They had something like 500 applications for grants.

There's a lot of really good things being studied right now, Ray, so it's really exciting.

I was involved as a consultant on 4 of those grants so that was exciting. One of the things I would like to call a halt to, if we can, is we don't need any more helmet research.

There was another big article yesterday about helmets that came out.

Let's try and clarify that one more time. Probably the No. 1 question I'm asked the most is about helmets.

I think I understand. I think parents want to hear (like a security blanket) that if I tell them there's one type of helmet they get, or if they do things right with the helmet, it will mean their kid won't get a concussion.

The fact is, in several studies in the last few years, it's been very clear that helmets do not reduce the risk of concussion. They do not eliminate the risk of concussion. There's actually no difference between all the different types of helmets out there.

Flickr/ StuSeeger Flickr/ StuSeeger

The most recent really good study was done in 2012 in Wisconsin. There were 1,300 high school kids they looked at. It was released last year -- late in 2013.

It showed there's no difference in the type of helmet or the age of the helmet as long as it has been refurbished.

This really agreed with a previous study the year before from Temple.

Yesterday there was some stuff that was in another study from Florida State that basically said the same thing. The helmet type doesn't matter.

I want everybody to be aware of what it said once and for all -- what helmets do really well is they reduce the risk of skull fractures. What helmets do really well is they also reduce the risk of brain bleeding. That's important and very good that we reduce the risk of brain bleeds by wearing a helmet.

But (again) helmets do not reduce the risk of concussions. There's no difference (between them) and there's no security blanket of one type of helmet out there (that's better than the other).

There's been so much study (on helmets). I'd really like us to focus in other areas rather than this continued focus on looking for the Holy Grail in a helmet.

HORNER: Yeah, good advice Joe.

Joe, as we get closer to spring we'll get more and more into these helmets. Certainly families are out there looking, as you mentioned, for the perfect helmet. As you said, helmets can do some things; they (just) can't do it all.

DR. CONGENI: Yeah, but on the other hand the positive side was seeing 500 people submit applications this week.

There are a lot of people studying new things and new technologies. You and I have talked about that a lot.

I think the landscape will change in the next few years. We'll let your listeners know about that as things change. But one area I think we are pretty close to maxed out -- there is no difference in the type of helmet (you can buy or use).

HORNER: Alright, thanks Joe. Get back to work my friend.

DR. CONGENI: Thanks. Have a great week Ray.

HORNER: You too. Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children's Hospital, with us.

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