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Helmet maker Schutt joins Xenith in questioning Virginia Tech study

Steelers Helmet AP

When researchers at Virginia Tech released the result of testing on various brands and models of football helmets, Riddell immediately publicized the results. But other helmet makers are saying the research doesn’t add up.

First Xenith disputed the findings of the helmet study, and now the helmet maker Schutt is also calling the research into question.

According to a statement Schutt sent to PFT, concussion statistics from the 2009 and 2010 NFL seasons contradict the Virginia Tech conclusions: Of the 297 players who wore a Riddell helmet that got a five-star rating from Virginia Tech, 30 suffered concussions. But of the 303 players who wore a Schutt model that got a three-star rating, 27 suffered concussions. And of the 489 players who wore a Schutt model that got a two-star rating, 31 suffered concussions.

Of course, those numbers could be misleading, too: We don’t know if players at different positions wear different kinds of helmets, and we don’t know whether players suffered brain injuries but weren’t diagnosed with concussions.

But the bottom line is that even after this in-depth Virginia Tech study, we lack the information we need about helmet safety. More studies are needed.

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23 Responses to “Helmet maker Schutt joins Xenith in questioning Virginia Tech study”
  1. suckittrebek76 says: May 13, 2011 11:32 AM

    Agreed, we need more studies. The more information we can acquire about this the better.

  2. skinheadsam says: May 13, 2011 11:35 AM

    I think a controlled study in a laboratory setting has more validity than anecdotal evidence from the manufacturer. There are numerous possible reasons for the manufacturer’s claim that fewer players had concussions using their helmets (position played, playing time, etc.). If I were a football player, I’d want to go with the best possible protection for my noggin, using the latest available scientific data (which the VT study is and the manufacturer’s claims are not).

  3. dccowboy says: May 13, 2011 11:41 AM

    It’s relatively unsurprising that the two companies whose helmets were rated very low in the study would have issues with it.

  4. Daboys says: May 13, 2011 11:48 AM

    Geeeez, is it possible Riddell helps support Virginia Tech. Come on, they supply Virginia Tech with their helmets. Of course this what the study shows…All about the Bejamins.

  5. minnesotablizzard says: May 13, 2011 11:52 AM

    So we can either go with a scientific study from a reputable university with no bias or listen to the manufacturer of the questioned helmets? This is a… no brainer.

  6. armchairgm9 says: May 13, 2011 11:59 AM

    Of course Schutt and Xenith are going to dispute the report. It’s the same reason Riddell publicized it. And I’ve said this all along…there are helmets specially designed to prevent concussions. Why hasn’t the NFL made it MANDATORY that all players wear these? They restrict everything else about the uniforms – shoe/chin strap color, gloves, length and position of your towel, and even sock height – so why can’t they decide to make players wear specific types of helmets better designed to prevent concussions? I mean, if they’re really worried about player safety, that is.

  7. spartyfi says: May 13, 2011 12:06 PM

    minnesotablizzard: if VT uses Riddel helmets then yes, there is a conflict of interest there and no, it is no longer a “reputable” study because it would in fact contain bias.

  8. pittman2052 says: May 13, 2011 12:11 PM

    maybe they should make it mandatory to wear a mouthpiece instead having the option to wear it. there are mouthpieces that help reduce the chance of a concussion.

  9. dccowboy says: May 13, 2011 12:16 PM

    spartyfi says: May 13, 2011 12:06 PM

    minnesotablizzard: if VT uses Riddel helmets then yes, there is a conflict of interest there and no, it is no longer a “reputable” study because it would in fact contain bias.
    ============

    That would be true if the study was conducted by the VT Football program. It was not. It was conducted by the academic side of the house at VT (the Biomedical engineering Dept) and the scientists that conducted the study have some pretty stringent ethical rules about falsifying scientific evidence, so I don’t think there is necessarily a ‘conflict of interest’ simply if the researchers in the Biomedical Engineering dept at VT produce a study that happens to indicate that a helmet the VT football team uses is the best at preventing concussions.

  10. andyreidisfat says: May 13, 2011 12:28 PM

    Just from viewing games it would seem that players for the schools use a wide range of helmets though it does seem a lot of schools go with specific brands but the schools that do seem to be using the Riddell helmet witch leads me to believe that they make the kids wear it because of the safety reasons.

    Oh and even if VT was to have some kind of licensing deal, that doesn’t create bias. I am go out on a limb here and say the science department or whom ever conducted the survey is not not doing it to pimp whatever chump change the school might get for wearing helmet. Now if the football program did the survey you might be right.

    College and the pro game should definetly mandate the use of whatever helmet tests the best. And independent study by Schools is who I would go with if it was my safety on the line. Remember in the capitalist system the companies are not in the selling game to prevent injury they are in it to turn a profit and thus lying about said safety is “the right thing to do” all hail Ayn Rand .

  11. iplay4keeps says: May 13, 2011 12:30 PM

    Do you the the VT academic department cares what the football team wears for helmets? Or do you think they are wanting to protect football players and inform them which helmets are the most protective. I could care less, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I believe VT researchers are just trying to provide information and not persuade schools and players to wear a certain brand.

  12. goldsteel says: May 13, 2011 12:47 PM

    The other companies are afraid of being shut out of the competition for the helmet business after the study results.

  13. ynotq says: May 13, 2011 1:10 PM

    Has anyone read the study or have a link to it handy? I saw the prior study where they create this system, but I’d like to see the data and their methodology for deciding what is better/worse.

  14. tdk24 says: May 13, 2011 1:12 PM

    I’m guessing that the players had some input on the helmet’s scores as well. Maybe riddell just looks more stylish, maybe it’s a more comfortable fit, maybe it comes with more bling? Where i grew up, Riddell and Bike were the helmets everyone wanted. Where is Bike on this list? Are they still in business? Anywho, these guys don’t like to wear cups, mouth guards, thigh and knee pads. They know what they are getting into and they are getting paid tons to do it.

  15. weimtime says: May 13, 2011 1:51 PM

    armchairgm9 – can you provide a link to these specific concussion reducing helmets?

    Does anyone else find this study completely useless? Isn’t a concussion caused when the brain is bruised? So, how can ANY helmet protect against concussions?

    The design of the helmet is to protect the skull. It can’t protect a guy moving at light speed suddenly stopping from an impact/collision and having his brain forcibly thrust upon his skull, which causes a bruise, can it?

    Thoughts?

  16. alphaq2 says: May 13, 2011 1:58 PM

    As a graduate of the VT engineering department, trust me, the test was absolutely unbiased. They couldn’t care less as to which helmet our team wears other than that they should wear the safest helmet.

  17. icantadd says: May 13, 2011 2:04 PM

    If you spent even five minutes looking this story up on a different website, you’d find that this study isn’t nearly as reliable as you think it is.

    While VT does have a pretty remarkable testing system in place, with tiny sensors in helmets that measure the force of hits, that technology WAS NOT USED in this study. Instead, they used a drop test; yes, they dropped helmets from five different heights, and used that information to develop their results.

    Now I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure that dropping helmets from five different heights is not the best way to simulate a football hit. And even if it produced the exact same results, every person takes a hit differently, so it’s irresponsible to conclude that a certain amount of force leads to a concussion in every player.

    In addition, while the VT Academic Department certainly has no bias as to the football helmets that the team wears, keep in mind that FBS schools like VT, that travel around the country, are notorious for losing money each year. A partnership or donation from Riddell would certainly help a program like VT out, and no matter how ethical the Academic Department might be, you cannot be so naive as to believe the President of VT wouldn’t be able to pull some strings.

    So that’s one side of it. But Riddell has no partnerships with any college teams, and is generally regarded as a pretty great helmet maker, considering that the NFL has had a deal with Riddell since 1990 and about 75% of the league wears a Riddell helmet.

    Also, while it is entirely possible that VT sold out and skewed data to endorse a sponsor, I don’t think that happened in this case. VT has been doing pretty exstensive studies on helmet saftey for a few years now, and as I mentioned before, they have tiny sensors in every helmet that detect the force of hits. Keep in mind that this technology cost the school over $40,000 to impliment, so it seems unlikely they’d spend the money and time only to skew the data in the end. Plus, the study only indicated that one Riddell model, the Revolution, was the best helmet, not the entire Riddell brand. In fact, the study rated one of the Riddell models, the VSR-4, the lowest.

    None this is really important anyways because VT released a report later, based on their sensor data, that indicated different positions should be using different helmets, since each position takes different types of hits, and that the Revolution did not have ideal padding for every position.

    Concussions have many case-by-case differences, so trying to use any test results as an all-inclusive answer is never going to work. Hopefully, as VT uses their sensor data more and more, they start to look at it broken down by position.

  18. finsuppatsdown says: May 13, 2011 2:09 PM

    Shutt does not have a leg to stand on. They were sued by Riddell for copying Ridell’s concussion technology. Shutt had to pay Riddell 30 million dollers. If Shutt’s helmets are so safe, why would they steal Riddell’s desighn? Google the case and you will see.

    @ weimtime
    From my research, the best concussion reduceing helmets are the Revolution series from Riddell. They have increased side impact protection and do something with the jaw line which prevents (or at least reduces) concussions which are commonly caused by contact with the jaw line of players. Just like punching someone in the jaw can knock them out, so can a football hit to the jaw. Further helmets which reduce concusions from all companies are designed to prevent or reduces the brains movement inside the skull by providing cushoning to the head inside the helmet. Obviously this is an oversimplification. Afterall, I am no scientist, just an attorney (not for Riddell).

  19. zeapelido says: May 13, 2011 2:14 PM

    coming from someone who does research in biomechanics….

    the design challenge is only one aspect of the equation. as many of you recognize, players will change the way they play, how they hit, based on different changes in the helmet. you can keep adding padding, but they may just slam their heads even harder into someone.

    why? because it doesn’t hurt much. in reality, if you reduced the padding, players would be afraid to crack their skulls, and they would never play the way they currently do, and no concussions.

    the real challenge is, how do you design a helmet that will alter the way players play in a such a way that both concussions and fractured skulls are minimized?

    it’s like running. you can run barefoot, or wear shoes. when you run barefoot, you run softly because you don’t want to pound the bottom of your feet. with shoes, the padding makes the bottom of your feet feel great, and you actually pound harder, so more load up the leg. how to balance is the crux of the issue.

  20. hobartbaker says: May 13, 2011 2:50 PM

    When the helmet cracks, then the skull cracks, then the brain matter starts to seep out, the players say “Oh, Schutt!”.

  21. mcnast731 says: May 13, 2011 3:20 PM

    Schutt released numbers based on the number of players that received concussion and of course the ratio works in their favor. As was said in the article, we don’t know the full story like position, undiagnosed concussion, or even the amount of playing time these players are getting. I see a lot of LBs wearing those Revolution helmets, moreso that kickers that’s for sure. WRs and DBs usually wear lighter helmets.

    And we’ve all seen those stylin’ bench players that don’t get in with the crazy helmets and cool gear, usually the #6 receiver. Only way to really get a good reading on concussions based on collisions is to set up these test like VT has.

  22. schuttguy says: May 13, 2011 5:43 PM

    OK. Full disclosure (in case some of you can’t tell by my avatar): I work for Schutt Sports and have for quite a few years.

    Now then. A lot of saber rattling going on here. Not much of it correct though some of you are going in the right direction.

    First off – no helmet is concussion proof, including ours. There is no scientific correlation between football helmets and the reduction of concussions. There are simply too many factors that cause concussions for a helmet to truthfully make that claim. What helmets CAN do something about is absorb impact, or manage force. But that is external. Concussions or other MTBIs are internal injuries. As someone here pointed out, helmets can only do so much in preventing internal head injuries.

    The same poster also pointed out – correctly – that helmets are not and never were designed to prevent concussions. Their original purpose was to reduce head injuries like skull fractures, which were killing players at an alarming rate in the 50s and 60s. To their original purpose, helmets are an unqualified success.

    The data that we submitted to PFT was not to promote our helmets vs any other. It was to point out what appears to be false logic in VT’s study.

    The injury data we provided to PFT came directly from the NFL Weekly Injury Reports. We know what helmet each player in the NFL is wearing, so it’s pretty basic logic to figure out how many concussions are being suffered in each helmet.

    Since just about the same number of players were wearing the AiR XP as the Speed, by VT’s logic, there should have been a significantly lower number of concussions for players in those helmets. In fact, there were more.

    Does that conclusively say our helmets are better? Absolutely not. What it should do, however, is cast doubt about the conclusions that VT and many others are trying to draw from the study.

    If the VT study is, as they claim, an indicator of likely concussion prevention, then why did the testing conducted by the NFL last summer conclude that there were three helmets that were the best on the field? The Speed, the Revo and the DNA Pro+. Which one was #1? The DNA.

    Neither the NFL or Schutt made any claims based on that distinction because we all know that concussions are caused by more things than the linear acceleration impacts studied in the VT testing. Rotational forces and time duration of impact are both widely known causes of concussions, but these factors were completely ignored in the VT study.

    As far the attorney who made claims about the Riddell lawsuit against Schutt… that lawsuit was about the design of the Revolution helmet shell WRT the shape of the ION and the DNA. Specifically the jaw flap/extension on the Revo. Nothing else. There was no “technology” involved. The part of the helmet that matters most is what’s inside and our TPU technology was not in dispute in that lawsuit.

    Yes, the jury found in favor of Riddell. We believe erroneously but so does every other defendant.We did not pay $30 million to Riddell and what does it matter? That lawsuit has nothing to do with the ability to reduce concussions.

    Wait! You’re about to say. That jaw flap that makes the Revolution family of helmets so distinctive and was put on for the widely promoted purpose of lowering concussions because, as you echo the words of Riddell, so many concussions are caused by impacts to the jaw.

    Guess what? In that VT study, after a million impacts recorded, you know what % of impacts were to the jaw? 17%

    And the Speed? By their own admission, they’ve beefed up the padding in the front/crown area because – now – they’re saying more concussions occur from hits to the front.

    Which is it?

    This is not intended to be a rant against Riddell. Instead, it’s a warning against drawing conclusions that aren’t warranted from a beneficial, but still limited study trying to over-simplify a very, very complex injury. Such over-simplification has repercussions in the public and we, as the world’s #1 maker of football helmets, want to make sure that players of all ages know that.

  23. tooz56 says: May 13, 2011 7:03 PM

    I’ve played in over 200 semi-pro games as a center. I started out with the Adams helmet, and it was AWFUL. It was heavy and I def had a concussion or 2 wearing it. Went to the BIKE helmet, it was lighter, but just as bad concussion wise. Finally broke down and ordered a Riddell revolution helmet, and at first I HATED it. It felt weird, and looked funny. But I stuck with it, got use to the feel of it, and in the 1st game using it, I took on a blitzing MLBer helemt to helmet…and it worked. I have NOT had a concussion using a revolution helmet in the 125+ games that I wore one. I have since hung up the pads, but have a lot of friends that still play, and they tell me the Revolution Speed helmet is even better.
    I have played with guys that used the SCHUTT ION helmet and a Revolution helmet and they said it was about the same, except the ION is $150 more. The Xenith helmet is pretty new, and in theory you would think it would be very good. (Dallas Clark of the Colts uses one)
    Funny how players would rather look cool on the field then protect their brains !
    If my 8 yr old son decided to play football when he gets older, I will make sure he uses a Revolution helmet.

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