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Objectives—Commercially available football head protectors were tested to determine their impact energy attenuation performance and ability to reduce the likelihood of concussion.
Methods—Prospective study using standardised impact test methods with both rigid (magnesium) and Hybrid III headforms.
Results—Eight commercially available head protectors from six manufacturers were tested. The magnitude of the headform accelerations increased as the drop height was increased, ranging from a minimum of 64 g from a height of 0.2 m to a maximum of 1132 g from a height of 0.6 m. The head injury criterion and maximum headform acceleration values followed a similar trend. A steep increase was noted in the magnitude of maximum headform acceleration and head injury criterion when the drop height was increased from 0.4 to 0.5 m. This indicates that the foam material was completely compressed at an impact energy above about 20 J and therefore offers little protection against impacts of greater severity. Repeated tests using a drop height of 0.3 m showed that some helmets exhibit a "memory" effect, whereby impact performance is reduced by up to 50% with repeated impacts.
Conclusions—Laboratory tests indicate that current commercially available football headgear performance will not reduce the likelihood of concussion. The absence of internationally recognised standards for soft headgear designed to ameliorate concussion is a major deficiency in sports injury prevention.
Key Words: football; headgear; helmet; head; concussion