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Concussion research may impact motorcycle helmet design

In the context of sports injuries -- particularly football -- experts recently revised their response and treatment protocols for suspected head trauma or traumatic brain injury victims. The most notable revision recommends a doctor’s examination and clearance of athletes who sustained a blow to the head, even if the athlete appears unharmed.

The revision may have been prompted by recent personal injury claims made by former NFL players. The players claim that league officials deliberately or recklessly withheld information about the potentially damaging long-term effects that can arise from a concussion.

The extra scrutiny to head injuries has also resulted in a new football helmet design, at least for one college football team. The new design includes a padded polyurethane fabric shell that fits over existing helmets. According to the manufacturer, the foam rubber compartments dissipate energy more effectively than a solid shell.

Another potential safety approach is a sensor system for monitoring hits to a player’s head. The data could be stored, allowing team doctors to determine if a player has received too many cumulative head blows to continue playing. The technology may also impact helmet safety discussions in other arenas, such as motorcycling. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data has already found a correlation between helmet use and decreased incidences of TBI after a motorcycle accident. Whether the extra research on TBI prevention also results in revisions to existing motorcycle design remains to be seen.

Of course, a personal injury attorney might caution that no helmet in the world can protect against other negligent drivers. Unfortunately, when a motorcycle impacts with a car or larger vehicle, size usually determines the winner. For that reason, motorcycle riding may require extra vigilance on the state’s roads and highways.

Source: USA Today, “More padding the issue of concussions and better helmets,” Gary Mihoces, July 31, 2013

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