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NFL testing various helmet models

As part of the league’s effort to provide better protection to the contents of the skulls of its players, the NFL has launched a program to test the various types of helmets. The goal is to obtain data regarding the performance of the helmets, and to share that information with the players and with the helmet manufacturers.

According to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, the first wave of testing already has been conducted on helmet models made by five different manufacturers: Adams, Gladiator, Riddell, Schutt, and Xenith. The league provided the results to the manufacturers last week, and a second wave of testing possibly will be conducted on models resubmitted by the manufacturers.

After the second wave of testing, the results will be made available to the players.

“It’s part of a multifaceted plan to address concussions and player safety,” NFL general counsel Jeff Pash told Maske. “The Commissioner believes if players are given the proper information, they can make good choices about their equipment and safety.”

Testing was conducted by subjecting the helmets to front, side, and rear impacts at different speeds.

David Halstead, technical director at the Southern Impact Research Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, explained to Maske the goal of the testing. “What I don’t want this to be used for is to say, ‘This is the best,’” Halstead said. “I don’t think the testing determines that. What I think it can be used for is to say if you’ve had two concussions from front impact hits and you’re wearing a 10-year-old helmet, you can look at it and say, ‘These three helmets perform sign[i]ficantly better on front impact. Why don’t you wear one of those?’ If you’ve had concussions from rear impact, see what helmets perform better in that situation. That would be a good outcome from this.”

That sounds good, but the reality is that the helmet manufacturers will spin the results in an effort to get more players to choose their helmets.

Still, the best possible outcome from this exercise would be to give the players data on which helmet decisions can be based. It’s a far better strategy than simply picking the helmet that the player thinks looks the coolest.