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Helmet testing standards could be improving

Helmets

As concussion sensitivity has increased, helmet testing standards haven’t. They soon could be.

The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) announced Friday the approval of a revised helmet testing standard. For the first time, the NOCSAE standard specifically will concussions in addition to more significant head injuries.

It won’t become effective until June 2016 at the earliest.

“It’s a pretty dramatic step for us. I don’t think any other helmet in the world has incorporated these kinds of testing components,” Mike Oliver, executive director of NOCSAE, told Gary Mihoces of USA Today.

The NOCSAE doesn’t claim the standard, which measures rotational forces and simulates the blows that occur in football collisions, will represent a step toward developing a concussion-proof helmet. That’s impossible, given that many concussions are caused by the banging of the brain against the inside of the skull when the head suddenly changes directions.

“I think what I could honestly say is by the time the standard becomes final that a helmet that meets that standard will provide the maximum level of protection consistent with technology and science that can be provided for concussions,” Oliver said.

That’s a fancy way of saying there’s only so much that can be done to prevent concussions from happening, which means that concussion management will continue to be an important part of the game at every level. Which means that changing the culture of football will continue to be critical to making football as safe as it can be.