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Debate continues over Kevlar padding and concussions

St. Louis Rams v Pittsburgh Steelers

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 24: Linebackers Lawrence Timmons #94 and James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers sack quarterback Kellen Clemens #10 of the St. Louis Rams in the fourth quarter of their game at Heinz Field on December 24, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)

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Rob Vito sells Kevlar padding.

So it’s in Rob Vito’s best interest to promote the safety effects of Kevlar padding.

But in the race to better protect NFL players, there are still questions as to whether the protection is enough.

In a well-reported piece at, Sean Conboy takes a look at the push-pull between equipment manufacturers and doctors, and whether they can agree on a preferred path.

Vito’s the CEO of Unequal Technologies, which makes protective gear out of Kevlar, the bullet-proof material. He says things like: “If Kevlar can stop a bullet, it can damn sure stop a blitz,” and he’s taking more and more orders for his product from the professional to youth levels.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo wore his padding while recovering from cracked ribs and a punctured lung, and James Harrison signed on as an endorser after breaking his orbital bone and having his helmet fitted with Kevlar padding.

The product in question is the “EXO Skeleton CRT,” which stands for “concussion reduction technology.” More than 20 NFL and NHL teams are using it, but doctors wonder if it’s as effective as promised.

“We need to look at this scientifically and come up with some process of examination on whether this works,” said Dr. Michael Collins, the director of the UPMC Sports Medicine program who has become the go-to concussion specialist for many NFL players. “At this point in time, to my knowledge, I don’t know of a fully controlled study that shows the effectiveness of [Kevlar] in mitigating the instance or severity of concussions.”

Vito claims his padding can reduce the G-forces generated at impact by 25 percent.

“I don’t want to claim we’re the cure-all,” he said. “But I think we are the beginning. Twenty years ago, seatbelts were optional, too.”

While the new gear can doubtless protect the wearers, the bigger question may be what happens to the players on the other side of the transaction.

Many have argued that modern protective gear creates a feeling of invincibility among players, and the head-long style of play that engenders can endanger them beyond what any material can protect them from.