Protective sports equipment is supposed to protect players from injuries. This is especially true in contact sports such as football. For instance, helmets are supposed to protect players from concussions and head injuries right? Not according to some researchers. Helmets can actually be a hazard.
Some researchers believe that helmets actually increase the risk of head injuries to players. Dr. Erik Swartz is a kinesiology professor at the University of New Hampshire who led the research study. According to Swartz, players will rely on protective gear when contact is imminent with another player. For instance, a football player wearing a helmet will lead with his head when making contact with another player.
This is just a normal response. It is referred to as risk compensation or risk homeostasis. When players have safety equipment on, such as helmets and pads, they believe they are protected. However, this increases the players’ threshold to assume risk. Risky behavior, such as running full force at another player before contact, increases.
Swartz, who used to play rugby, implemented a two year study to test the effectiveness of Helmetless Tackling Training Technique or HUTT (the “U” was added to mimic the sounds quarterbacks make before the snap) at the University of New Hampshire. Swartz developed HUTT in hopes of training football players to “keep their heads out of the game" and ingrain safer tackling techniques into a new generation of players.
A group of 25 football players goes through tackling drills without helmets once a week in practice. A control group of 25 other players uses typical protective gear.
When players are not wearing helmets, they don’t lead with their heads by instinct. Players in the study said that at first, tackling without a helmet doesn’t seem like the best idea. However, after they started doing it, it made more sense to keep their heads out of the contact zone. Instead of their heads, they used their chests, legs and other parts of the body to absorb most of the force.
Swartz believes that helmets should still be worn by players when playing games, but he wants players to avoid head contact automatically when playing games.
While Swartz can’t draw conclusions as the study is ongoing, Swartz says that coaches see a difference in how players play after learning the technique.
Is playing football without pads and helmets farfetched? Surprisingly no. It’s already happening in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It’s called A7FL. Click here to read about A7FL and its goal to reduce head injuries.
If you have questions about a loved one’s brain injury, feel free to contact Daniel J. O’Brien, a PA and NJ sports injury lawyer. Your loved one may have legal rights if the brain injury was caused by someone’s negligence. Call today to schedule a FREE consultation. 877.944.8396