PORTLAND – The biggest hits on the gridiron tend to get the biggest applause. But for the parents of football players, those violent collisions cause the greatest concerns.
An estimated 1,000 high school athletes in Oregon suffer at least one concussion a year.
So researchers at Virginia Tech have tried to answer the question: How much does a football helmet protect a player’s head?
They tested 18 different helmets and rated each with one to five stars, five being the best. Click to see the ratings
As far as Portland high schools go, athletic director Marshal Haskins said the majority of players use a five-star helmet.
“I don’t think any of our schools have one [standard] helmet,” he said. “Most kids have Riddell speed helmets.”
The Riddell Revolution speed helmet is one of four helmets with a five-star rating. But he said schools are also using helmets with lower ratings.
One of Oregon’s leading concussion specialists said the Virginia Tech study was an interesting look at safety but that a five star helmet is not much better than one with a lower rating.
“It did not significantly change the incidents of concussions between the older and newer helmets in such a way that you’d feel incredibly safe wearing one of the newer helmets,” said Dr. Jim Chesnutt.
He said what's more important than make and model of the helmet is that it fits right. Chesnutt also said coaches must teach proper tackling technique and recognize the symptoms of a concussion.
He said a sensor in development at Oregon Health & Science University could help spot issues related to concussions. It measures a person’s balance, which gets worse with a concussion. That small piece of equipment can help show whether players have recovered from a damaging hit.
In an effort to further reduce the number of concussions students suffer in the state, the Oregon Scholastic Athletic Association just voted this month to limit contact in football practice to three days a weeks.
KGW reporter Mark Hanrahan contributed to this report