Now all that has changed. Researchers at Virginia Tech have produced the first brand-by-brand, model-by-model ranking for the likely concussion resistance of helmets. A star-rating system modeled on crash safety rankings for automobiles, the rankings clearly identify the best and worst helmets. Virginia Tech researchers give high marks to these helmets: the Riddell Speed, Riddell Revolution, Riddell Revolution IQ; the Schutt Ion 4D and Schutt DNA; and the Xenith X1. The Virginia Tech researchers give medium grades to the Schutt Air XP and Schutt Air Advantage. The Virginia Tech rankings warn players not to wear these helmets: the Riddell VSR4 and the Adams A2000.
Now the chilling part: the VSR4 -- Virginia Tech's second-lowest-rated helmet -- was the most common helmet in the NFL last season. The VSR4 is widely worn in college and high school, too. Immediately after the Virginia Tech findings were released, Riddell advised football teams to stop using the VSR4, long the company's best seller.
LAST SEASON, THE VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES wore the Riddell VSR4 -- the very helmet Stefan Duma's research found unsafe. For the 2011 season, Virginia Tech will wear the top-rated Riddell Revo or Speed models, with each player choosing whichever better fits the quirks of his head shape. Considering the Hokies have four helmet color combinations and dress 72 for games, that's a truckload of new helmets. "My equipment manager has wanted to get rid of the VSR4 for years," says Goforth, the Virginia Tech trainer. "He has long believed the new designs are safer. Finally, he has research to back him up."
If Duma's star rankings trigger a switch to advanced helmets at all levels of the sport, and if his research is right, concussion incidence should stabilize, then begin to decline. Everyone who loves football should want this outcome -- not only for the health of players but for the long-term standing of the game. Root for the Hokies in the fall: By putting safety first, they are setting the example football needs.
In addition to writing Tuesday Morning Quarterback for Page 2, Gregg Easterbrook is the author of the new book "Sonic Boom" and six other books. He is also a contributing editor for The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly and The Washington Monthly. His website can be found here.
Good read, probably too long an article, but makes you wonder why no one had done this before.
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/st ... ortCat=nfl