I know we are in the middle of the play-offs. The website is full of stories of the teams and players that are part of this exciting time of the year. Just before the play-offs started, there was a story that I considered important enough to write about. It boggles the mind that I need to print this one column.
The story belongs to both countries, Canada and the U.S.
It begins at Virginia Tech in their Engineering and Mechanics Department. They were testing a new form of measurements to use to see how hockey helmets are protecting children from injuries. The studies show that most helmets are not safe enough to reduce head injuries while the kids are playing hockey. In other words, they are not preventing concussions. But I found out the aim is not to stop the injuries. That would mean a totally new way of playing hockey, from the bottom-up. The aim is to reduce the risk and the number of injuries per player.
Virginia Tech bought 33 different kinds of helmets and did a few tests on them. The scoring is a 5 star process. 5 is perfect. One helmet received 3 stars out of 5, which is a ‘good’ score. 25 helmets out of 33 failed to get a ‘adequate’ score of 2 out of 5.
We trust the equipment we buy to protect our kids from getting hurt, what is happening? The cost of the helmets were not a concern, from the highest to the lowest price they were graded at the same star levels. It would be cheaper just to use another hard item as a helmet! There must be many different items lying around your home or garage that would keep your kids safe. Don’t get me started. Ideas are just oozing out of every pore of my helmet-less head.
The “STAR” test is based on different kinds of brain injuries. These are rotational and linear acceleration injuries which occur when the head turns on impact. The concussion is related to the rotational acceleration. In a concussion the brain wiggles like jello. In other words the hockey helmet helps to protect the head from skull fractures but does almost nothing to protect kids from concussions.
A thought from my past- when I was younger I thought that helmets were good only for giving players, good helmet hair-dos!
To be fair to all, doctors are still trying to understand the brain and what happens in a concussion accident. Companies are working with doctors to help produce helmets that will raise the STAR ratings. It is difficult to produce a helmet to protect the brain when a player is traveling at a high rate of speed and goes down on a hard unforgiving piece of ice.
What to do with your old helmets? Anything but putting them back on your child’s head! Next season when you need to buy a new helmet for your kids, ask your doctor.