February 27, 2020

Many people take it for granted that helmets protect the head and prevent it from being injured. This is not entirely true. While helmets help prevent more severe types of brain injuries such as skull fractures and brain bleeds, they cannot help prevent a concussion.

“[Concussions] are caused by the sheer forces through the brain, and there’s no real way that a helmet can do anything to prevent those from happening,” Peterson said. “Helmets do a great job of taking direct linear forces and diffusing them, but they don’t absorb them, so that energy still gets in[to] the brain and that’s what causes the concussion.”

Over time, football helmets have been improved, but that has not changed their function.

“They have gotten better cushioning, a better fit and [are] tighter to the head so that it’s not necessarily the helmet that moves around when you take the hit, but none [of that] will ever stop a concussion,” McHenry said.

However, helmets still provide an important protective layer for the brain, that helps reduce the number of more serious brain injuries than concussions.

“Before there were good helmets a lot more kids used to die playing football and now we are lucky that we really only have a handful of traumatic brain deaths playing football every year,” Peterson said.

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