November 04, 2010
Whenever he returns to the playing field -- and that might be this weekend against Indianapolis or in two Mondays against the Redskins -- DeSean Jackson(notes) will be wearing a new helmet designed to limit concussions. This begs the question: If such technology exists, why isn't everyone wearing these helmets?
Jackson told reporters in Philadelphia on Wednesday that he's now wearing a new helmet made by Schutt and designed to limit the risk of concussions. The NFL has a contract with helmet-maker Riddell, but Jackson and other players are allowed to go with another brand provided there are no logos on the helmet. The receiver, who has been sidelined since suffering a concussion last month on a vicious hit by Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson(notes), said his mother bought him another model helmet, but he didn't like it and chose to go with the Schutt model.
On its website, Schutt boasts that its helmet are designed to diminish the risk of concussion through various impact-absorbing technologies. This particular model has more cushioning and air-filled pockets to blunt the force of hits. Ridell and Xenith also make helmets designed to be safer.
Why aren't more players wearing these helmets? Is it the stigma attached to safer helmets? The misguided belief that newer isn't always better and that familiarity reigns supreme? (I like the old days as much as anyone, but NFL players who don't want to switch helmets should remember that chinstraps, facemasks, plastic and mouthguards were once treated with the same derision as safer helmets.)
The NFL needs to realize that regulating hits is going to prevent only a small amount of concussions. Despite the hype the Week 6 injuries received, it seems that most concussions appear on benign plays. Because of this, an equipment change would have far more impact than telling James Harrison(notes) not to lead with the crown of his helmet.
Something needs to change. The helmet seems like a good place to start.
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