When Carolina running back Nick Goings collided with Seattle linebacker Lofa Tatupu in the NFC Championship game Jan. 22,the effects were jarring. Both men lay motionless after the hit.
But Tatupu returned to the huddle while Goings was unable to return to the game.
Their helmets might have made the difference.
Tatupu,who made three tackles and intercepted a pass after the collision,was wearing a Riddell Revolution helmet – Goings wasn’t.
A study in the February issue of “Neurosurgery” shows that the Revolution,which is computer-designed around the head’s center of gravity,reduces the chances for a concussion by 31 percent compared to other helmets such as Riddell’s VSR-4.
The authors of the study,Drs. Michael Collins and Mark Lovell of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center,compared 2,141 high school players who wore the Riddell Revolution helmet with others who wore traditional football helmets.
Collins and Lovell,both in the Sports Medicine Concussion Program at UPMC,stressed that no helmet can prevent a concussion,especially if the athlete is not fully recovered from a previous head injury.
Although the Revolution did prove to be better than others,Collins doesn’t want the message to be,”Oh,my kid’s had a concussion,so let’s put him in the Revolution helmet and he’ll be fine.”
Lovell,who deals primarily with the NFL and the NHL,said each injury must be evaluated by circumstances and not a particular helmet.
“It depends on how fast you are going when you get hit and what your injury history is,” Lovell said. “It’s very difficult to predict who’s going to have a concussion. It could look like it’s not that bad of a hit,but it comes down to a lot of factors that we don’t even know about at this time.”
Of the 2,141 athletes analyzed in the three-year study,136 suffered concussions. From those 136,researchers estimated that the Revolution could prevent 18,000 to 46,000 concussions among the 1.5 million high school athletes who play football each year. Approximately 300,000 athletes are estimated to incur a sports-related concussion each year.
In the study,which was funded by Riddell and the UPMC,doctors used ImPACT,a Windows-based computer program,to test players’ cognitive functions such as reaction time and working memory.
“We gave players a ‘baseline’ test at the beginning of the study,and then if they suffered a concussion,we would test them again,” Collins said. “We found that the Revolution did reduce concussions per year but did not decrease the severity of them.”
According to a Riddell publicist,the Revolution helmet is worn by more than 300,000 athletes.
But in Super Bowl XL,only 21 Pittsburgh Steelers and six Seahawks will be wearing the Revolution. Just three offensive players expected to start the game will be wearing the Revolution – all linemen.
Paul Federici,former head trainer for the Seahawks,said that helmets in the NFL are primarily chosen by familiarity and for comfort.
“There were four different helmets players wore when I was in Seattle,” said Federici,who is the director of athletic training at the University of Iowa. “It depended a lot on player preference,but also on the fit by the equipment manager. Not everyone’s head is shaped the same way.”