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Good Football Helmet Fit Key to Preventing Brain Injuries
Date:2/17/2012

By Lisa Esposito
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Feb. 17 (HealthDay News) -- While football helmets don't prevent concussions, good helmet fit might help reduce loss of consciousness that can follow a blow to the head, a new study finds.

Expensive, high-tech helmets with air-lining systems aren't much better than vintage "leatherheads" for preventing concussions, the researchers said.

"The occurrence of concussion has been constant for the past 30 years: whether it was a leather helmet, whether it was a plastic helmet with web suspension, whether it was a plastic helmet with foam, or one with the new combination air cells and padding," said study author Dr. Joseph Torg, an adjunct professor of orthopedic surgery at Temple University in Philadelphia.

The researchers looked at data from the U.S. National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance System from 2005 to 2009. Of the nearly 1,400 kids who sustained a concussion, 44 lost consciousness and 267 experienced amnesia.

Injury reports addressed helmet fit, type of inner-helmet padding and whether the helmet was new or reconditioned.

"Youngsters who had a concussion, if the helmet fit, they had 82 percent less chance of loss of consciousness," Torg said. "Helmets -- and advanced helmet technology -- do not prevent against concussions or the severe intracranial injuries of hemorrhage [bleeding] and brain swelling."

The researchers also analyzed previous studies comparing types of helmets.

Older, reconditioned helmets did as well as new helmets. But unpublished data suggested that helmets with air-bladder linings might be a risk factor, because they tend to leak and can deflate if not maintained properly.

Wendy Norris, head athletic trainer at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md., said her responsibility for player health includes gear safety, and it's standard practice to inspect helmets before each game.

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