Updated: Aug 7, 2020
The football helmet's 80 year evolution that should protect your brain but does it do it's job sufficiently?
Football helmets have been required by the NFL since 1940. They've gone through changes in the past 80 years but there are still a staggering amount of traumatic brain injuries effecting many players of our favorite fall entertainment.
Where is the real helmet you wore when getting tackled by large, fit and fast men? You are holding it he told me.
Helmets were invented to help protect the brains & lives of those who wear them but how actively are we trying to help those football players we rely so heavily on entertaining us?
A $15,000,000,000 Piece of Plastic
In 2013 I lived with a retired NFL football player who actively played in the league from 1998-2002. We were watching Monday night football one evening and I put on a helmet from the side table when someone jokingly smacked me on the top of the head *SMAAAACCCCKKK* echoed hard and loud all around me. I am not being dramatic when I say it was shockingly loud and uncomfortable just with someone's playful hand. Woah, I said, Where is the real helmet you wore when getting tackled by large, fit and fast men? You are holding it he told me. You can't be serious I thought, this piece of thin plastic with a few small pieces of foam scattered throughout the inside? This is how we gear up the $15 billion NFL industry? This revelation helped me start to piece together some of his behaviors that I now know are classic symptoms of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and why we were receiving mail in regards to the NFL Concussion Settlement.
Houston, we still have a problem.
A 2017 study found that 110 of 111 deceased former National Football League (NFL) players had evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), or permanent brain damage as a result of repeated blunt force injuries to the head.
The Netflix documentary Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez did a fantastic job digging into the disturbing extreme effects of CTE and what can happen when we ignore the problem and although the football helmet has made strides since the original leather helmets were used in the 1940's, we still have lightyears to go to protect the brains and lives of these athletes. What blows my mind is that it wasn't until 2002 that the first significant remodel of the helmet happened which was 25 years from the last remodel. The below video is a fantastic six minute timeline of the evolution of the helmet and it's relation to concussions and CTE and what is currently being done to fix the problem.
Where do we go from here?
We are currently living in a strange time in history and since professional sports are being halted due to #covid19 now would be the perfect time to re-evaluate the effectiveness of the current football helmet. I hope it doesn't take another 80 years before we find a helmet that fully protects the athletes who are directly responsible for the multibillion dollar industry. #dobetter #helmetup