New, safe helmets a must for football

By Kyle Betts

Do you have headaches, feel dizzy and are disoriented or confused? While someone who displays these symptoms might have watched the Cubs’ postseason play, they are more closely associated with the diagnosis of a concussion.

According to research by the NFL, NCAA and Riddell – a company that manufactures football helmets – there are more than 300,000 concussion-related injuries in athletics every year, 100,000 of which come from football-related incidents.

Concussions from football injuries cause more than headaches and dizziness, though. They can end a player’s career and create decades of mental anguish after retirement.

A 2005 study done by the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes found that former football players who suffered three or more concussions are five times more likely to have mild cognitive impairment and three times more likely to have significant memory problems than players who suffered fewer or no concussions.

This disturbing problem needs to be stopped. Not only do the NFL and NCAA have a responsibility to protect their players, but they now have the means to help by mandating that all players must wear concussion-reducing helmets.

The Riddell Revolution football helmet, which debuted in 2002, is a helmet specifically designed to help reduce the chance of a player experiencing a concussion. According to a study in conjunction with the development of the Revolution, 70 percent of concussions in football come from violent blows to the side of the head. The Revolution helmet was specifically designed with more padding and protection on the sides of the helmet in order to reduce the number of concussions. While these helmets are not concussion-proof, they offer much more protection than the standard football helmet worn by many players today.

Now I’m all for players having the right to choose the brand of equipment they want to wear on the field, but it is time for the governing bodies of football to make the Revolution and similar helmets mandatory for all players.

With football players becoming bigger, faster and stronger with every new generation, the NFL and NCAA need to have the foresight to know that the concussion issue will only get worse if they continue to sit idle and do nothing.

Last week, Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Trent Green suffered a stage 3 concussion – the worst anyone can experience – when his head collided with the knee of 315-pound Houston Texans’ defensive lineman Travis Johnson. Green, who suffered his second major concussion in 13 months, was knocked unconscious by the hit and is now facing the likelihood of retirement. He was not wearing a Revolution helmet during the game and guess where he was hit? That’s right, in the side of the head.

Green’s injury is just one example among several in which the Revolution helmet could have at least lessened the severity of the injury.

Why football doesn’t adopt a new policy is a mystery to me. Throughout the history of the game, football’s governing bodies have updated their equipment to keep pace with the evolving tenacity of the game. The addition of the facemask is a prime example. Football realized the dangers that the game presented to players’ faces and they took steps to make = mandatory in order to protect their players. Why now, with the game evolving yet again, won’t football make this necessary update?

While players have the option to wear the Revolution helmet, the NFL and NCAA have a golden opportunity in front of them to show not only that they care about their players, but that they care about the future of their players and the next generation of players yet to come. This is a chance for the two major bodies in football to show younger players in high school and Pop Warner that safety is the paramount concern in football, and that it should be valued above all else. If football wants to show that the safety of their players is the No. 1 priority, then they need to do it from the top down.

While NFL commissioner Roger Goodell states that playing in the NFL is “not a right, but a privilege,” he needs to understand that it is every player’s right to have the best protection possible given to them.

With so many reasons for football to make concussion-reducing helmets mandatory, it makes my head hurt to think about why they haven’t done it yet.

Kyle Betts is a senior in Communications. He can be reached [email protected]