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Helmets are the Best Defense Against Concussions

From Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette (via Calgary Herald):

“What we’re saying is that the helmet is the most important piece of performance equipment we have,” Mark Messier said. “So The Messier Project is about trying to change that whole philosophy and the education that goes behind it.”

But the M11 helmet hasn’t been very popular with NHL players (only 12 of them are wearing it this season), partly because of “the look” and possibly because it is marketed as providing extra protection.

“The NHL still continues to be our greatest challenge,” Mary-Kay said. “One of the things we’re really working on is changing the culture of hockey so that head protection becomes a priority. The No. 1 criteria for selecting a helmet should be the protection a player gets and that it fits well to optimize performance, and not just limiting it to the look of the helmet. Part of the culture (in the NHL) is that if you choose a more protective helmet, does that in some way make you a weaker player?”

much more

Filed in: Hockey Equipment, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: concussions, helmets, mark+messier, the+messier+project


Evilpens's avatar

helmets do nothing for the whiplash injuries that cause the brain to slam of the Cranium

Posted by Evilpens on 03/13/11 at 05:19 PM ET


That and the fact that most NHLers don’t wear helmets correctly.  When the chin strap goes down to you chest, the helmet is not going to protect you in a collision regardless of how well it is made.

Posted by pens fan in baltimore on 03/13/11 at 06:16 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

That and the fact that most NHLers don’t wear helmets correctly.  When the chin strap goes down to you chest, the helmet is not going to protect you in a collision regardless of how well it is made.

Posted by pens fan in baltimore on 03/13/11 at 04:16 PM ET

This is a good point - I wonder if they should start looking at a rule regarding how tight (or loose) chin straps have to be. 

Evilpens is also right that they don’t prevent the whiplash effect which causes most concussions.  They do prevent (or at least minimize the effects of) traumatic head injury-related hits though.  If a player is felled and his head whiplashes to the ice, the helmet won’t stop the concussion, but it will likely stop the guy’s skull from fracturing.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/13/11 at 06:27 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

J.J. I agree but it’s the force of the hit that sends the neck & head into motion that causes the whiplash that causes most Concussions !! I am for anything that helps cut down on concussions, But football players wearing their chinstraps right & have better helmets than hockey players do & there are a lot of Concussions in football still

Posted by Evilpens on 03/13/11 at 06:34 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Helmets are part of the equation. So are mouth guards, which help dissipate the forces of impacts to the face instead of simply transferring energy up the jawline and into the brain.

So are visors, as it turns out, as Niklas Kronwall and Valtteri Filppula have told me that they wear visors—and Kronwall *barely* wears a visor, technically speaking—because they protect the sides of the head, temple and cheekbones, at least partially, from the kinds of impacts that sneak through helmet protection.

So are shoulder and elbow pads, whose layers of protective foam over their caps protect both the hitter and player hit by dissipating impacts.

Helmets are still a bit of a sticky wicket in that there are some hockey equipment companies which believe that technologies like Cascade’s “Seven” foams, which compress to push the straight-line forces of impacts along the surface area of the helmet instead (i.e. to spread out force perpendicular to the hit) while cushioning the skull to reduce the amount of brain-sloshing-into-skull collateral damage…

While other hockey equipment companies believe that hard, bicycle helmet-style foams and one-piece composite helmet shells both completely disperse force over the surface area of the helmet and cushions the brain because a carbon composite helmet’s shell deforms to absorb impacts, to the point that several old Mission Carbster helmets would actually break into pieces, and were intentionally designed to do so, when sustaining particularly severe blows. In fact, several helmet companies argue that the tighter-fitting a helmet is affixed to the head, the better a composite helmet is at doing its job. Those who back this suggestion would actually suggest that the M11 is still too ill-fitting as a two-piece helmet to work as it’s advertised.

I think that a compromise (softer foams in one-piece helmets) are the way to go, but that’s a player-turned-goaltender talking, and top-of-the-line goalie helmets contain both supremely compressible foams, hard plastic and composite shells which are made from layers of fiberglass, carbon composite and, most importantly, Kevlar, which is the best impact-dispersing fabric around. If I had $1,000 to invest in a player helmet, I’d go with an individually-molded, one-piece Kevlar helmet, but I wouldn’t wear it without donning a visor and mouthguard to afford myself the best protection possible.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 03/13/11 at 06:38 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Also: As you’re suggesting, EvilPens, there’s not much that a helmet, visor or mouthguard can do to change the fact that the human brain is essentially the consistency of warm butter, sloshing around in fluid in the skull. It sloshes around when the head, neck and upper torso sustain impacts, and you don’t need to be hit in the head to suffer a concussion. If you’re hit violently enough to jolt your body and brain, there’s no helmet that can prevent your brain from hitting the skull and bruising (which is what a concussion is, a brain bruise).

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 03/13/11 at 06:58 PM ET

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