Reducing Concussion Risk

I wanted to share important information with you about the helmet rating system led by Dr. Stefan Duma and the researchers at the The Center for Injury Biomechanics at the Virginia Tech Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering. Their study’s results have garnered many news articles and is considered one of the leading rating systems for this hot topic. Below are details about their program, as well as insight into our support of head injury research.


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Since 2011, Virginia Tech researchers have been providing unbiased helmet ratings that allow consumers to make informed decisions when purchasing helmets.  The helmet ratings are the culmination of over 10 years of research on head impacts in sports and identify which helmets best reduce concussion risk.  This work is done as part of Virginia Tech’s service mission and is 100 percent independent of any funding or influence from helmet manufacturers.

Why rate helmets?

According to our friends and researchers at Virginia Tech, although all helmets currently being sold satisfy minimum safety requirements specified by standards organizations, not all helmets are created equal.  Two helmets that pass the same standard may offer different levels of impact protection.  Prior to the Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings, consumers had no way of knowing which helmets were better than others.  Given that helmets are a safety product, this information should be available to consumers.


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Download the Football Helmet Ratings


What do the helmet ratings mean?

Simply stated, the helmet ratings identify which helmets best reduce concussion risk.  More stars equate to better protection, with 5 stars representing the best available helmets.  We encourage athletes to get out of lowly rated helmets and into 4 and 5 star helmets.  Ratings are currently available for football and hockey helmets.

⇒  Click here to see an article about their hockey helmet ratings.

How are ratings determined for helmets?

Through a series of impact tests, helmets are evaluated using 2 fundamental concepts: 1) each test is weighted based on how frequently players experience them and 2) helmets that lower head acceleration reduce concussion risk.  The impact conditions and weightings are sport-specific, and inclusive of the broad range of head impacts that athletes are likely to experience.  These methods have been published as peer-reviewed articles in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering and are free to download for football and hockey.

Erica Konczal athletic trainer concussion recognition TBI signs and symptoms traumatic brain injury


Will 5 star helmets prevent me from sustaining concussions?

No helmet is concussion-proof.  Any athlete can sustain a head injury, even with the very best head protection.  The helmet ratings identify the helmets that best reduce your chances of sustaining a concussion.  With that stated, helmets are only one piece of the equation to minimizing concussion risk.  Rule changes and coaching proper technique can result in fewer high-risk head impacts, and are perhaps most important.  Having the best available head protection for the remaining head impacts further reduces risk.  Check out our studies on how rule changes can reduce high-risk head impacts in football.

Read more about their system.


jill urban itakl youth football head impact research study wake forest university helmet rating system virginia tech biomedical engineering


Learn more about our research partnership with the The Center for Injury Biomechanics at the Virginia Tech Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering. Since the pilot study stage, the Childress Institute has helped fund a multi-year research collaborative to study head impacts in youth football players. We look forward to ongoing results that will change what we know abut the brain and concussions.

⇒  Click here to see what “Time” said about the head impact research.

Dr. Duma and his team are also researching non-helmeted head impact measurement systems, such as the headbands, caps, mouth pieces and arm bands that have inundated the market in the past few years. They expect published results in 2016.


Stay inspired!!
Bob Gfeller

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