Safety Helmets for Athletes to Protect from Concussion and TBI

Nancy Harris Bonk Community Member December 12, 2011
  • Suffering from Migraines and/or headaches isn't uncommon after a traumatic brain injury. David Wright, third baseman for the Mets, sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in August 2009. He was hit in the head, just above the ear, with a baseball traveling 94 miles an hour. Wright immediately fell to the ground, and was immobile. Trainers from the team ran out to assess him, helping him sit up. Eventually, he was able to walk off the field - with assistance. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance where he was evaluated and held overnight for observation. The CT scan performed came back negative (which is typical in these types of injuries) and he was released the next day with post concussion syndrome. Wright wanted to play in the next game, but was unable to as he was still experiencing headaches. He was put on the disabled list (DL) for 15 days. It is imperative the brain has enough time to recover from a TBI. Recovery time depends on when the person is symptom free. If symptoms persist with activity, more recuperation is needed.

     

    As soon as Wright was symptom-free and cleared by his doctors to play, he was back. When he was up to bat the first time, he wore a new protective helmet - the S100 by Rawlings. This helmet is able to withstand pitches thrown at up to 100 miles an hour. However, it was heavy, cumbersome and uncomfortable for Wright, so he only wore it once. In addition, his teammates and the public mocked him for wearing it. There isn't a professional athlete in the world who is going to wear protective gear to be mocked by his teammates and the public, even if it means putting their health in danger.

     

    In 2010, the minor leagues made it mandatory for players to wear the new protective helmets. In 2013, Wright and his major league teammates are going to have to accept the helmet and wear it. This is due to baseball's collective bargaining agreement that was just signed on December 1, 2011. The agreement includes a mandatory helmet safety rule and states, "By 2013, all Major League players will wear a new batting helmet developed by Rawlings that protects against pitches thrown at 100 miles per hour. The new version of the helmet is significantly less "bulky" than prior versions of the more protective helmet." 

     

    Here's what's troubling. Why do athletes have to be mandated to wear protective gear? Is it because they don't look good enough or cool enough with the gear on? There are thousands of young athletes and children who look up to these professionals and view them as heroes. They would be doing a great service to youth sports and traumatic brain injury education if they would wear gear without complaint. Why not make it "cool" to be safe. With the tremendous amount of new data coming out, sports figures need to concern themselves with how their sports are played, how they protect themselves during play and the impact they have on children, the athletes of tomorrow. 

     

    ____________

    Sources:

     

    Calcaterra, Carl. "DWI policy, maple bats, new helmets all part of collective bargaining agreement." NBC Sports. HardBallTalk. November 22, 2011.   

  •  

    ESPN.com news services."Wright beaned, sustains concussion." New York, New York. ESPN. MLB. August 16, 2009.

     

    ESPN.com news services. "Mets' Wright released from hospital." New York, New York. ESPN. MLB. August 17, 2009.

     

    Singer, Tom. "Reinforced helmet debuting around Majors. Withstands 100 mph pitches; mandatory in Minors in '10." MLB.Com. News. Events. August 31, 2009.

     

    Thanks for reading, and feel well,

    NancySig

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    Visit my blog, Migraine and Other Headache Disorders

     

    ©HealthCentral Network, 2011.
    Last updated December 12, 2011.

3 Comments
  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    Health Guide
    Dec. 12, 2011

    Hi Nancy :)

     

    My experience is in working with horses and kids.  In our particular area, it has become mandatory for youth to ride wearing protective head gear.  While most kids and parents agree with the practice, in reality there is more to the story...

     

    Although protective head gear can look like protective head gear or like a western...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    Hi Nancy :)

     

    My experience is in working with horses and kids.  In our particular area, it has become mandatory for youth to ride wearing protective head gear.  While most kids and parents agree with the practice, in reality there is more to the story...

     

    Although protective head gear can look like protective head gear or like a western hat, the attractiveness isn't really the issue with most riders - especially if everyone is having to wear the same gear.  The problem comes with the ability to perform with it on your head.  

     

    There have been times where I have witnessed accidents that occurred because the rider had diminished ability to see and react to his/her surroundings as a result of the helmets.  

     

    In this case, wearing a safety helmet is about like wearing a football helmet while driving your car.  Eventually you get used to it, but in the beginning, it is not only cumbersome, but your field of vision is seriously decreased and you miss things you would not normally miss.  Your blind spot is greatly increased, and it feels a bit like driving while looking out a knot hole in a fence.  I imagine that once you get used to having to spend a lot of time turning your head instead of using your eyes, that decreased field of vision is not so much a problem, but in the beginning - for those of us riding horses - it can be trouble.  

     

    So the moral of the story from my perspective is this:  Like everything, wearing a different type of helmet for your own safety is going to take practice so you can learn to use it correctly.  As a person who suffered 3 separate concussions as a kid (none horse related), and had kids destroy 3 safety helmets over the years while coming away unhurt, I see the value in them more than most.  I just want parents to realize that there is a learning curve to these pieces of safety equipment, and they will better serve their kids by making sure to train them to use them carefully, adequately and appropriately BEFORE they need them in competition.  

  • chronic migraine sufferer
    Dec. 15, 2011

    Good point and unfortunately helmets don't protect against concussion as research is now showing.  It is not so much the hit to the outside of the head but the brain hitting the inside of the skull - repeatedly which does most of the damage.  Sports like football and hockey are plagued with concussion injuries (Sidney Crosby).  They are making...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    Good point and unfortunately helmets don't protect against concussion as research is now showing.  It is not so much the hit to the outside of the head but the brain hitting the inside of the skull - repeatedly which does most of the damage.  Sports like football and hockey are plagued with concussion injuries (Sidney Crosby).  They are making tougher rules around hits and fining illegal hits but the problem begins long before the "big leagues" when kids are in football and hockey programs from age 3.  The scary part is they are finding brain damage without any typical symptoms of concussion so the player keeps playing causing further damage.  I'm not sure what the solution is given the industry of sport and no one wants to deter their kids from participating in what is otherwise a healthy activity but at least their is an awareness.

    • Nancy Harris Bonk
      Dec. 16, 2011

      Thanks for reading. I agree with you. When some of the rules changes, as they are in the NFL, players won't truly be protected until the games are somehow modified.

       

      Take care,

      Nancy

       

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