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Debate continues over Kevlar padding and concussions

St. Louis Rams v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

Rob Vito sells Kevlar padding.

So it’s in Rob Vito’s best interest to promote the safety effects of Kevlar padding.

But in the race to better protect NFL players, there are still questions as to whether the protection is enough.

In a well-reported piece at Wired.com, Sean Conboy takes a look at the push-pull between equipment manufacturers and doctors, and whether they can agree on a preferred path.

Vito’s the CEO of Unequal Technologies, which makes protective gear out of Kevlar, the bullet-proof material. He says things like: “If Kevlar can stop a bullet, it can damn sure stop a blitz,” and he’s taking more and more orders for his product from the professional to youth levels.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo wore his padding while recovering from cracked ribs and a punctured lung, and James Harrison signed on as an endorser after breaking his orbital bone and having his helmet fitted with Kevlar padding.

The product in question is the “EXO Skeleton CRT,” which stands for “concussion reduction technology.” More than 20 NFL and NHL teams are using it, but doctors wonder if it’s as effective as promised.

“We need to look at this scientifically and come up with some process of examination on whether this works,” said Dr. Michael Collins, the director of the UPMC Sports Medicine program who has become the go-to concussion specialist for many NFL players. “At this point in time, to my knowledge, I don’t know of a fully controlled study that shows the effectiveness of [Kevlar] in mitigating the instance or severity of concussions.”

Vito claims his padding can reduce the G-forces generated at impact by 25 percent.

“I don’t want to claim we’re the cure-all,” he said. “But I think we are the beginning. Twenty years ago, seatbelts were optional, too.”

While the new gear can doubtless protect the wearers, the bigger question may be what happens to the players on the other side of the transaction.

Many have argued that modern protective gear creates a feeling of invincibility among players, and the head-long style of play that engenders can endanger them beyond what any material can protect them from.

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19 Responses to “Debate continues over Kevlar padding and concussions”
  1. sj39 says: Jul 10, 2012 9:54 AM

    Leather helmets and proper tackling technique.

  2. ironhawk says: Jul 10, 2012 9:56 AM

    He’s going to feel so old when he realizes it wasn’t 20 years ago, but 40.

  3. bigwaz says: Jul 10, 2012 9:56 AM

    Kevlar and similar materials redistribute force over a larger area. This reduces the severity of an impact at the very point of contact, but the total force will still be applied to the object it protects. You would be better off with a pillow strapped to your head.

  4. nfloracle says: Jul 10, 2012 9:59 AM

    This whole deal reminds me of expensive running shoes. After decades of Nike and the other manufacturers telling us how their expensive shoes reduced injuries, research now reveals without question that the human body has the fewest injuries when running barefoot. So what kind of shoe is Nike now selling for over $100? A minimal shoe that is as close as they can get to putting a sock on your foot and charging a Ben Franklin for it.

    Want to reduce head injuries and concussions? Stop playing with helmets.

  5. nebster21 says: Jul 10, 2012 10:09 AM

    The only way people other than the fans will be happy is if this changes to the NFFL (National Flag Football League)

  6. eyeh8goodell says: Jul 10, 2012 10:20 AM

    Unless you’re going to insert Kevlar within the skull itself, then it would do no good to stop the brain from moving within the skull…..which is what causes concussions.

  7. bosssixty says: Jul 10, 2012 10:47 AM

    a players who has never suffered a concussion with his old helmet wont change to a new model. thats why so many od them keep wearing the vsr 4

  8. mwindle1973 says: Jul 10, 2012 10:50 AM

    “While the new gear can doubtless protect the wearers, the bigger question may be what happens to the players on the other side of the transaction.”
    _________________
    Exactly! Furthermore, shouldn’t the safety-conscious NFL be the one arranging and paying for studies that determine this eq is indeed safer? They’ve got a long way to go on this safety issue. Let me add that the #1 problem is tackling technique. So doesn’t safety start at the Pop Warner level on up with the teaching of proper football fundamentals. For about 25 years or more now, the chief concern at early levels is winning instead of instruction, which was once the chief concern.

  9. bryanwenzel says: Jul 10, 2012 10:54 AM

    Longer than he thinks.

    It was 1968 or so, iirc, that seatbelts were made mandatory on domestic cars.

    Laws manadating their use came in the mid 80s I think, but they were there long before.

    I’d say more should be done teacking youts how to properly tackle, rather thango for hilite reel hits. Then you’d see concussions go down.

  10. eaglesw00t says: Jul 10, 2012 11:09 AM

    bigwaz says:
    Jul 10, 2012 9:56 AM
    Kevlar and similar materials redistribute force over a larger area. This reduces the severity of an impact at the very point of contact, but the total force will still be applied to the object it protects. You would be better off with a pillow strapped to your head.

    ———————–

    Thats why the Kevlar is used in conjunction with a force absorbing material. The Kevlar layer spreads the impact, while the cushion layer absorbs some. Bullet proof vests and fireproof clothing are the same. They are all layers of multiple fabrics and materials designed to work with one another.

  11. mike5011ad says: Jul 10, 2012 11:33 AM

    Not wearing a helmet will not make NFL players safer. There have been many studies that show that rugby players have just as many if not more concussions than NFL players. Google “rugby concussions” and you’ll see tons of articles about the similar problems rugby players are having with concussions. Some people think that they don’t have concussions because it’s not in the American media, but it’s reported about all the time in British and Austrailian newspapers. People need to stop saying that not using a helmet would make the game safer, because that is just plain false.

  12. thcnote says: Jul 10, 2012 11:44 AM

    If we live in a free country then why is it a law that I have to put on my seatbelt. I would be hurting nobody but myself. I can see a law for children because they don’t know any better but adults should have a choice. It’s all a money grab.

  13. purplengold says: Jul 10, 2012 12:06 PM

    The increased mass and speed of the players of today combined with the desire to headhunt drive the concussion equation. A composite can only absorb a small amount of the force. Most will still be delivered to the point of impact, that small area where two helmets contact.

  14. granadafan says: Jul 10, 2012 12:40 PM

    Ever seen the impact of a bullet on the body behind the kevlar? Sure, there is no penetration, but the force can still crack ribs and cause internal bleeding. As to head to head/knee/ground impacts, just review Newton’s first law of motion: An object (brain) will stay in motion until an external force head/knee/ground acts on it. Kevlar or no kevlar, the brain hitting the skull is the issue.

  15. briang123 says: Jul 10, 2012 12:44 PM

    Recently I saw a group of motorcyclists wearing full Kevlar gear. It seemed like a good idea to me.

  16. jebdamone says: Jul 10, 2012 1:00 PM

    kevlar is an awesome idea. insanely strong but also gives to absorb impact.
    ive said it before and will probably say it a hundred times more though; nothing will change until the fundamentals of tackling are focused on at every level from pee-wee to the nfl.

  17. stew48 says: Jul 10, 2012 2:39 PM

    I believe UPMC stands for University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Whether it does or not, if Dr. Collins is th #1 guru, methinks he should already have had a study on the product. It isn’t a 2012 invention.

  18. SmurfJuice says: Jul 10, 2012 3:04 PM

    I’ve always wondered about the way the facemask extends beyond the chest and rest of the helmet (from side view). For some reason, seeing a player fall face first into the turf looks like instant death to me, the way that the facemask jams the neck backwards.

    Multiply by 60 plays a game where a facemask is jammed into an opposing lineman’s hands/chest/facemask, I do believe that bringing the facemask closer to the face could help. It would promote body blocking instead of just throwing your face wherever the 300-pounder is.

    I definitely don’t see the advantage of having it stick out like that.

  19. hsatpft says: Jul 10, 2012 4:07 PM

    Kevlar is very strong for its weight. Helmets should be as light as possible, both for comfort & to cut down on neck injuries. So Kevlar might make for better padding if it’s used in place of a heavier fabric. The best way to avoid concussions is not to have the impact in the 1st place, as others have already posted.

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