Football helmets and neurotrauma--an epidemiological overview of three seasons

Med Sci Sports. 1979 Summer;11(2):138-45.


During the 1975, 1976, and 1977 football seasons, the National Athletic Injury/Illness Reporting System (NAIRS) obtained records of the nature and severity of injuries and illnesses experienced by an annual average of 5361 high school and college athletes. Associated circumstances, including type and brand of helmets being worn by the injured and non-injured, also were obtained. From these data, and against specified epidemiologic criteria for significance, the possibility that particular helmets were associated unduly with cerebral and spinal neurotrauma was examined. The results revealed that (1) one permanent severe neurological injury (cervical spinal cord) was experienced, the mechanism of which was unrelated to helmet design; (2) cerebral concussions were infrequent (one significant concussion per 10,000 athlete exposures) and of a consistent rate from year to year; and (3) no particular helmet was associated with a disproportionate number of concussions or cervical spine fractures within those experienced. Continuing surveillance with multivariate analysis of possible causal relationships among all factors associated with these injuries is in progress.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / etiology*
  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / etiology*
  • Football*
  • Fractures, Bone / etiology
  • Head Protective Devices*
  • Humans
  • Protective Devices*
  • Quadriplegia / etiology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / etiology