At any given time, there are 4.4 million children playing tackle football in the United States of America. That does not include the more than 1,600 professional players in the National Football League. The professionals, of course, are paid a substantial sum of money to showcase their athletic talents year after year, but that is not the case with the children, who play for the fun of it. Yet, regardless of age or talent level, all of these players share at least one thing in common – they all don a football helmet each time they take to the field.
These helmets are meant to protect against skull and brain injuries, but many are now arguing that they are falling short of their goals. Who is to blame for that? If you have ever looked at the back of a football helmet, you have likely seen the NOCSAE label. This stands for National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment and this is the governing body overseeing the effectiveness of football helmets. The organization was formed after a spree of serious injuries in the 1960s cost players their lives. Today, the organization is credited with saving lives. While that may be the case, and the number of skull fractures has diminished significantly, there is another matter to consider. The number of players suffering from concussions is on the rise and it is estimated that more than 100,000 children are wearing inadequate head gear onto the field. In fact, the helmets approved by NOCSAE have not been tested against the forces commonly associated with concussion and the helmet standards have seen little or no change since 1973 (according to the New York Times).
How is it that this has not been dealt with? Many are blaming the fact that there are so many funders with a direct interest in seeing the football helmets approved. Of the $1.7 million dollar annual budget received by the NOCSAE, the majority is afforded by sporting-goods manufacturers. In the meantime, thousands of children are put at serious risk as they are rushed to the hospital to be treated for concussion, which occurs when the head is hit hard enough for the brain to smash into the side of the skull. The result, for most, is a temporary unconsciousness, forgetting the few moments before the accident, or feeling temporarily groggy. Severe concussions can cause lasting issues including depression, dizziness, balance problems, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and disrupted concentration. A second impact while the brain is recovering from the concussion can cause sudden death.