Can one football helmet protect a player better than another from head injuries? Researchers at Virginia Tech think so, and they've come up with a 5-star system for rating helmets.
"If you think of a football player, an athlete, they have some amount of velocity and they impact something, a person, the ground. They're going to lose it. Basically, if you can slow that down, more padding, better helmet, you have lower acceleration," explains researcher Stefan Duma.
He says that leads to a lower risk of injuries, such as concussions.
His team has spent more than a decade testing 18 different helmet models hundreds of times each. They use the results to place the helmets on a 5-star scale. Duma says the tests are complicated, but the results are not.
"The differences are dramatic, and that's really the fundamental message that we're trying to say," he says. "The difference is dramatic between the very good four and five-stars and the one-stars."
Duma says he found that Virginia Tech was using a one-star helmet, which the school changed after learning about his research. It's a change he recommends for all schools using the lower rated helmets.
"You could replace a team's helmets for $5,000 to $10,000. When you think that they last for multiple years, you're talking a couple thousand dollars a year to have these better helmets."
He says some of the higher-rated helmets sell for less than some of the one or two-stars.
To make it easier for players and parents to recognize a helmets rating, Duma says Virginia Tech plans to release a sticker to be placed on the back of helmets that will show its star rating. That could happen as soon as this summer.
13WMAZ sent open records requests to all central Georgia high schools to see what helmets players are wearing and where they fit on the Virginia Tech scale. The results will be revealed Wednesday on Eyewitness News at 6.
However, some medical professionals and researchers disagree with the Virginia Tech study, and say no helmet can prevent a concussion more than another. An explanation of their arguments will also air Wednesday night on 13WMAZ.