Can helmet design reduce the risk of concussion in football?

J Neurosurg. 2014 Apr;120(4):919-22. doi: 10.3171/2014.1.JNS13916. Epub 2014 Jan 31.


Of all sports, football accounts for the highest incidence of concussion in the US due to the large number of athletes participating and the nature of the sport. While there is general agreement that concussion incidence can be reduced through rule changes and teaching proper tackling technique, there remains debate as to whether helmet design may also reduce the incidence of concussion. A retrospective analysis was performed of head impact data collected from 1833 collegiate football players who were instrumented with helmet-mounted accelerometer arrays for games and practices. Data were collected between 2005 and 2010 from 8 collegiate football teams: Virginia Tech, University of North Carolina, University of Oklahoma, Dartmouth College, Brown University, University of Minnesota, Indiana University, and University of Illinois. Concussion rates were compared between players wearing Riddell VSR4 and Riddell Revolution helmets while controlling for the head impact exposure of each player. A total of 1,281,444 head impacts were recorded, from which 64 concussions were diagnosed. The relative risk of sustaining a concussion in a Revolution helmet compared with a VSR4 helmet was 46.1% (95% CI 28.1%-75.8%). When controlling for each player's exposure to head impact, a significant difference was found between concussion rates for players in VSR4 and Revolution helmets (χ(2) = 4.68, p = 0.0305). This study illustrates that differences in the ability to reduce concussion risk exist between helmet models in football. Although helmet design may never prevent all concussions from occurring in football, evidence illustrates that it can reduce the incidence of this injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Brain Concussion / epidemiology
  • Brain Concussion / prevention & control*
  • Equipment Design
  • Football / injuries*
  • Head Protective Devices*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Risk
  • Young Adult