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Equipment Changes May Limit Sports-Related Brain Injuries

Boston News reported this week on advances in sports equipment design and manufacture that many are hoping will limit the total amount of concussions and serious traumatic brain injuries. Considering there is a growing number of young athletes who are avoiding certain sports over these risks, our Chicago brain injury lawyers appreciate that significant safety improvements are needed to ensure the games remain safe and open to more and more future players.

Most focus is on soccer and football–the two sports that produce the most concussions in the U.S. Hockey is also a contact sports that comes with severe head injury risks, but fewer American children, adolescents, and teens play that game.

Expectedly, changes in helmet and headgear design are gaining the most attention. Soccer players traditionally do not wear any headgear when playing, but that may change. The article shares the story of one high school player who is promoting the use of headgear after suffering a concussion during a game last year. She notes that the gear is still very lightweight and does not interfere with the game–headers can still be taken with it on.

Yet, some experts have questioned whether the headgear for soccer players is actually effective. The clinical director of one sport’s concussion group noted of the soccer headgear, “we don’t have clear evidence it’s going to prevent concussions, but it might help as long as by putting it on, a player doesn’t feel more invulnerable and play more aggressively.”

Conversely another medical director compared the headgear to shin guards, claiming that they prevent injury and will not adversely affect the game.

When it comes to football, helmet manufacturers are working to incorporate new technology to limit traumatic brain injuries. Perhaps most noteworthy are advances in use of air-filled liners that may minimize head movement following a hit. Some new helmets use “air-cell shock absorbers.” The idea is that when a player is hit in the game, air is forced out through a small hole in the liner, this minimizes the sudden head movement and, ultimately lessen the severity of brain trauma.

Other advances include flexible face masks to help in front hits. Computerized attachments are found in others which estimates the “seriousness” of the hit. This data, often referred to as a “shockbox” is then transmitted to observers–like a trainer or coach–who can take action, if necessary, to ensure the player gets proper rest afterwards.

Mouth guards are also attracting some attention, and some argue that they can play a role in minimizing concussions. Proponents of this idea claim that a blow to the jaw radiates into the brain. Improved mouthguard use, therefore, may lessen the underlying trauma to the brain following a significant hit.

There are no easy answers when it comes to deciding what sports to play (or let your children play). At the end of the day, our Illinois brain injury attorneys know that, not matter what decision is made, it is important to be informed about the risks, preventative measures, and way to deal with concerns about injury.

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