Football and Concussions, What You Need To Know.

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Photo By Gordan DeLoach

Why We Love This Game

Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard for all rules, and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words, it is war minus the shooting… Most of the games we now play are of ancient origin, but sport does not seem to have been taken very seriously between Roman times and the nineteenth century… Then, chiefly in England and the United States, games were built up into a heavily-financed activity, capable of attracting vast crowds and rousing savage passions, and the infection spread from country to country. It is the most violently combative sports, football and boxing, that have spread the widest.

~Eric Arthur Blair, British author and journalist, commonly known by his pen name, George Orwell (1945)

George Orwell, Photo Via Wikipedia

Orwell made that statement 73 years ago and not much has changed since.  Of course his reference to football is what we call soccer here in the states, but I doubt he would be surprised at the excitement and financial impact around our game of football. In fact the NFL is so popular, despite the headline turmoil of the last year  it grossed $14 billion dollars in revenue in 2017. To put that number in perspective for you the US film industry generated $11 billion dollars in 2017.

Technology and Knowledge

The fact is we love this game for a myriad of reasons, and it is my belief that there is no other team sport in the world that compares to the benefits gained by the young men who play football.  However, the “culture” of the game must change for the benefit of the players, and the game. What is evident to me is there has been no other time in history where we have had the technology and knowledge to change the “culture” of the game so swiftly.  Not only has the equipment technology vastly changed, but we also know how to change the way we play the game to help mitigate injury and concussive blows to the head.

A quick history lesson

1904 University of Texas Football Team. Photo Via Pinterest

This isn’t the first time people had a concern for young men playing the game of football.  In the early 1900’s football was lethally brutal. The forward pass was illegal which meant a tangled mass of humanity as men interlocked arms and used their helmet-less  heads as virtual battering rams.  In 1904 the Chicago Tribune reported 18 deaths, and 159 serious injuries mostly with prep school players. President Teddy Roosevelt stepped in and demanded changes to the game that eventually led to our modern day version of the game we know today.  Roosevelt used his position as president to urge football authorities to push for radical rule changes.  He wrote in a letter to a friend that he didn’t want to  “emasculate football,” and that he hoped to “minimize the danger” without football having to be played “on too ladylike a basis.” I think a lot of us feel the exact same way today.

Should I Let Him Play?

Having played in the NFL as an offensive lineman the issue of concussive blows to the head and CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) is never far from me. However it is my 12 year old son and his big dreams of one day playing in the NFL that make the issues of todays game so pressing.  I  don’t want to get into the politics of the issues of retired NFL players. My immediate concern, like you, is for my son who is playing this game now.

Enzo DeMarco LT, 6th Grade Dripping Springs Championship Game 2017. Photo By Shari Schmok

Like many other parents I knew there was no way I was going to talk my son out of playing football.  To be honest, I didn’t want to, but I also didn’t want him playing the game under the same conditions I played. Besides coaching (I’ll discuss this at a later point) my first concern was doing all that I could to protect him him from concussive and sub-concussive blows to the head. For the last few years I have stayed tuned to the best and latest in helmet technology and reading everything I could get my hands on. First, let me state what should be the obvious—no helmet can prevent all head or kneck injuries, including concussions, a player might experience while participating in football.

However, there are companies out there that are facing the issue head-on and approaching helmet technology from a whole new perspective. In my opinion VICIS has the best helmet on the market today. The ZERO1’s multiple layers work together to slow impact forces. The helmet features a soft outer shell and an underlying layer of columns designed to mitigate collisions from multiple directions. If you haven’t seen a VICIS helmet yet, I strongly urge you to take a look by clicking here. To be totally transparent with you they are one of our advertising partners, but that happened for a reason.  I wanted to insure what and who we partnered with was what I felt was the best helmet tech available.

Helmet Testing Laboratory Results

In 2017 the NFL and The NFLPA collaborated —through their respective biomechanical experts and coordinated laboratory testing on helmets that could be worn by NFL players during the upcoming 2017 season. The goal was to determine which helmets best reduced head impact while simulating impacts NFL players experience during game conditions.  The VICIS ZERO1 performed better than all other helmets in the 2017 NFL/NFLPA helmet performance testing, receiving the best score across all helmet impact locations and velocities.

Helmet Ratings

Helmet Ratings

The NFL has undoubtedly taken some steps in the right direction as it concerns player safety. However, if you’re looking for testing that has no interest in the NFL there is neutral party testing.  Since 2011,  Virginia Tech has been leading the way when it comes to an unbiased rating of football helmets that will help athletes and parents of athletes to make an informed decision on what helmet to purchase. However, until they changed their protocol in 2018, Virginia Tech did not test for rotational forces which are thought to be the main cause of injury. They also did not test with a facemask on the helmet. VICIS is a fairly new company, but the ZERO1 will be included in the Virgina Tech 5-Star ratings this year. The results should be released in the next few months, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted.  I expect that what we will find from the 2018 Virginia Tech testing is that the VICIS ZERO1 helmet will be an industry leader. In the graph below you will see one clear difference between the VICIS helmet and every other helmet on the market.  The VICIS helmet has an outer shell that deforms at the area of impact.  The fit of the helmet is also uniform which will increase the safety of the athlete.

Wrap It Up, And Discuss

When my son steps on the field this season he will be wearing the VICIS ZERO1. Keep in mind that until this past year Vicis was only available to pro and college players. Throughout his football playing days I will continue to put him in the best helmet available.

If I can remove the smallest fraction of risk of concussion for my son….thats exactly what I will do. We all feel the same as parents of players. We all want to keep them as safe as possible, and let them reap the benefits and life lessons this game provides.

Lets dive into this together. I’ve provided links in this article to a myriad of websites to help you gather information about helmet technology.  Lets continue this discussion together and find the best answers. Links to this article will be posted on our Facebook page and Twitter. Let us know what you’re thinking, or if you have any questions. We may not have all the answers immediately, but together I’m confident we can find them.

Here’s the best video I have found to explain the VICIS difference.

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