The Concussion Problem: The Technique or The Equipment?

This is an article I've been flubbing around with for a few weeks. The NFL is now trying to take a large approach against concussions but are they going about it the wrong way? I'd like to think that they are. The NFL right now seems to be attacking the technique and attitude of the player who causes the concussion, but shouldn't the equipment of the victim be just as at fault?

I'm going to look at a few equipment models of the helmet. I'll explain the positives of each helmet and compare them to each other throughout the article. This article may boil down to Schutt vs. Riddell, but I hope it doesn't. I'm just trying to write something on each helmet and clear up some gray areas and have you all think if Helmet choice is too vague of an issue in the NFL right now. I actually have my helmet and pads from High School (don't tell my coach), so I'll be able to give some first person accounts and pictures on some of these items of equipment. Their picture sizes will be huge in the fanpost though, so I'll add them into the comment section.


The Helmet

Now, there are a few types of helmets circulating around the NFL currently. You can see a few types of them on your own Madden game but that's all for personal preference and game customization (they aren't quite accurate). Not all helmets currently allowed in the NFL specifically target concussion prevention, however. The types of helmets we'll be looking at are the Schutt AiR, Schutt DNA, Schutt ION, Riddell Revolution and the Riddell Revo Speed. All these helmets are different in appearance for technical reasons and to some extent, personal reasons.



SCHUTT AiR - Now, this is a helmet I own personally. While an older version, it still resembles what AiR's are today, the traditional shell helmet. My helmet was rather primitive, and it seems some players in the league are wearing the same type of helmet. It's lined with easily rip-able foam, that after so long lies flat and un - protective. Everything was snapped on and the ear pieces felt extremely tight. The AiR portion of the helmet was nothing more than a rubber balloon that made a square above your head. The problem was, nobody ever understood that that portion always needed to be filled with air. Ignorance. Schutt has since upgraded the AiR to resemble the Revo's system, as I will explain below. Basically, the foam is now assorted into smaller individual pockets that can hold air, instead of keeping the foam and air separate. Schutt states that their bottom version helmet is better at concussion protection than other shell - base helmets and the Revo as well. But, the Revo isn't necessarily a concussion - protection helmet (it was made to be so, but it's not really anymore). It's made for speed and weight reduction, which is why the AiR may have an edge.

First hand experience told me, this helmet didn't protect anyone from concussions. While I may have unknowingly suffered one myself, I gave a concussion to my teammate on accident during a goal line run. I went to block a MLB and next thing I knew, I hit our Left Tackle square in the top of his helmet. He was wearing a Schutt DNA and suffered a concussion and was out the next week as well. I experienced terrible pain but was able to keep my wits about me. Through this experience, I showed how another helmet I'll be talking about didn't do much to stop a concussion but the Schutt AiR clearly was not made to do so either.

Examples of this helmet can be seen on all of our own QBs and is easily the most common helmet worn in the NFL. You can see how nasty of a helmet it is by looking at Delhomme's. The ear pads scream concussion - prone. Delhomme's also seems to be the older type, which is just scary.



SCHUTT DNA - A helmet introduced in 2003, this was Schutt's first prolific and innovative helmet. This helmet features better bacteria and disease control, better heat technologies and new padding known as Thermoplastic Urethane Cushioning. No longer did Schutt use foam and air to protect the player's brain, as the DNA was top of the line in Concussion - Prevention technology during it's inception. This is a helmet I favored when playing. My head coach never came through with ordering it for me however (only his son and the RBs got these ordered for them). Schutt states that in impact tests, this helmet absorbed 24% more impact than the Revo Speed and 44% more than the Revo. I actually believe that as well. As I said, this was a helmet I favored of receiving personally in my playing days. However, I gave you a first person example of how this helmet too, can fail.

Examples of players wearing this helmet are usually lineman in the NFL. Our own Joe Thomas sports a DNA. These helmets are made wide (I assume it's made large for protection as well), so they may be un-favorable to skill positions. They are honestly, pretty rare in the NFL.



SCHUTT ION - Personally, this is my favorite helmet out of all those out currently. This thing is a monster. The ION is the latest helmet by Schutt. Taking many of the DNA's performances into a better, more sleeker version, the ION is Schutt's latest and greatest. The ION runs the same TU cushioning as the DNA but introduces a new facemask system where the facemask is literally integrated INTO the helmet. They also introduce a Gel  - like system into the ION, as opposed to air but the DNA may have since been upgraded to do the same as well. The ION is more of a stylier version of the DNA, as shown in the pictures. This time Schutt compared absorption tests to the Xenith X1 helmet, a conventional shell type helmet and the ION absorbed 44% more impact than the Xenith. The reason they didn't compare it to the Revo or Speed I think, is because the ION matches the DNA in padding, so they didn't want to be redundant.

Examples of players wearing this helmet in the NFL are limited. Justin Tuck wears one and Pat White did as well, if I think off the top of my head. White brings up a problem however. During a game where White took a Pistol snap, he was hit in the head and laid motionless on the sideline for minutes. This is why I think the NFL needs to look at technique AND equipment, as the technique of the hit seemed to be the problem much more than White's choice in helmet.



RIDDELL REVOLUTION - Now, Riddell of course, makes it's own Shell - type version of the AiR, but they are extremely similar, so I felt Riddell's version did not need to be examined. Actually, Riddell only commercially sells the Revo and Speed, so if you were to see someone wearing a Riddell Shell-type helmet, it's obviously obsolete; once again bringing up another problem: hand-me-downs and the preference of using old equipment! Riddell's claim to fame came with the "Revolution," so to speak. Coming out one year before the DNA (see why Schutt had to come out with something new? Ala, the DNA?) the Revo was the first innovation in helmet technology in a long time. The Revo works off the individual foam pocket system I brought up earlier when examining the AiR, but I would assume that Riddell came up with it first and Schutt then just upgraded the AiR to what it is now. If you look at the picture on the front page of Polamolu holding up his helmet, you'll see a series of small individual air pockets inside his helmet. Instead of using conventional foam and padding, the Revo utilizes foam air pockets. This is an upgrade over the traditional AiR (before it was upgraded, of course) because instead of using foam and air separately, Riddell combines them for maximum air protection. Also, the Revo's shape is made to mold around the jaw line, which helps dissipate energy throughout the whole head instead of concentrating it all around the brain. This is also how the DNA and ION work to an extent (minus the jaw molding) but the foam and air is replaced by their new cushioning and gels (another reason I'd take a Schutt over a Riddell).

This helmet is clearly the most popular over the traditional Shell and examples of it are everywhere. This of course, brings about another problem. Riddell works off of word of mouth it seems. I personally think the better technology is with Schutt, but you rarely ever hear of them in the mainstream and Riddell Revos are as common as traditional shells. Riddell is also the "official" helmet of the NFL, creating barriers for Schutt.



RIDDELL REVO SPEED - Finally, at the last helmet. Hope you've been keeping up because we're almost done. This helmet was created, not necessarily for Concussion - protection (although Riddell claims it is) but more for wearer convenience and style. Taking the Revo's technologies and adding some slight new variations for protection (such as a new absorption liner) the Revo Speed is an updated version of the Revo. Riddell markets this helmet more for it's conveniences, rather than it's protection. It has a new shell with sharper lines, facemasks made for vision optimization and quick release facemasks. Now, while more comfortable, I'd rather have a facemask that protects me rather than built for vision and a facemask that I can be assured will stay on. But that's where the name comes from, IT'S BUILT FOR SPEED. Because of this, we see ONCE AGAIN, another wearer problem. They think because it's the newest thing out from Riddell, it's the best and is made for protection. WRONG. It's made for skill optimization and ease. There may be new advances in concussion technology but Schutt is miles above Riddell in that category. It's Riddell working off word of mouth once again.

Examples of this helmet are more common in College but are quickly working their way into the NFL. Many skill position players wear this helmet. Polamolu jumps back and forth between the Revo and Speed, Big Baby wears one and so does Big Ben. Big Ben shows you the problem with the wider facemask built for vision. His nose was broken while wearing a Speed. Also, Speed's are now the helmet you see placed in front of sports tables during pre - games, halftimes and such since they are the "official" helmet of the NFL. The Speed also works in conjunction with Nike, as it was the helmet used when Nike unveiled their College Pro - Combat uniforms.

UPDATE: Now, it seemed that this did end up turning into a Schutt vs. Riddell article to a point, but that's fine. In Concussion - Prevention technology, SCHUTT IS THE BETTER HELMET. Rufio brought up a good point in asking why and how Riddell became the "official" helmet of the NFL, which creates barriers for Schutt. Well, in 1988 Riddell acquired the Power Athletic Company. PAC was a manufacturer of football pads. With the ability to produce pads and helmets, Riddell struck a deal with the NFL in 1989 to become the "official" helmet in exchange for pads and helmets for players. Riddell has been the official helmet ever since. So, here's the problem. If the NFL wants to cut down on concussions, they're inhibited by their own business transactions! Ah, but so is everything in the NFL it seems. If players are provided inferior helmets by Riddell, there's no initiative to buy something else. Riddell is promoted everywhere and if Schutt can't be promoted through any NFL media, Riddell has a death grip on the helmet business. Players may not even understand there are better helmets being made! Is the NFL targeting the technique and not the helmet because it's beneficial to their wallet? It seems so.


So, I hope you can see why the NFL should take a look at the hardware that is being given to players in the NFL. Is it hitter's Technique or victim's Equipment? As I said earlier, I think it's both but improper use of equipment is far more rampant. After Josh Cribbs's concussion scare in last year's Ravens game, he moved from a conventional AiR helmet to a Schutt helmet that has all of it's DNA technologies in a conventional shell helmet for skilled players. De Sean Jackson did the exact same thing this year after his hit. Why is this happening AFTER THE HITS THOUGH?! If they had switched before, maybe they would've been fine! And this is where all these little problems turn into one big problem; if the NFL doesn't step in and set stricter equipment guidelines that equal their technique guidelines, players will always choose helmets that don't perform as they thought or heard, or will wear inferior helmets because of their ignorance to concussions. The NFL however, works in conjunction with Riddell over Schutt. I personally think Riddell makes an inferior helmet to Schutt when speaking through concussion prevention. Obviously, regardless of the choice, the helmet may not work 100% of the time (My story, White's hit) but they are sure as hell a lot better choice than wearing a helmet that's only padded with cheap foam and sometimes, not even air.

A knee can heal, a brain might not.

This is a fan-created post. Dawgs By Nature assumes no responsibility for the content listed.

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