Helmets Come Under Scrutiny

As concerns about the long-term effect of playing football grow and lawsuits against leagues, coaches and equipment manufacturers increase, helmets are coming under renewed scrutiny. In April 2013, a jury found that Ridell, the largest manufacturer of helmets in the country and the official helmet manufacturer of the N.F.L., was liable for not adequately warning players wearing its helmets about the dangers of potential head trauma.

Warning Labels Carefully Worded

To make consumers pay attention, companies try to make their warnings clear, concise and understandable, and put them on the helmets, on boxes and online. The wording of warning labels on helmets is governed by lawyers, product engineers and the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE), the organization that creates the standards that helmet manufacturers follow.

Goal is Prevention and Risk Reduction

Product warning labels are all about prevention and risk reduction. Helmet makers follow NOCSAE’s template for warning labels and then adjust them as they see fit. Labels provide the warning while at the same time state a disclaimer to lessen liability risk, such as “no helmet can prevent all head or neck injuries, and using a helmet to butt, ram or spear an opposing player is not advised.”

Other Factors Involved in Football Head Trauma

Factors other than helmets play a part in football head trauma. Coaches, athletes and parents play a role in recognizing and treating concussions and other head trauma. While skull fractures are immediately apparent, concussions are more difficult to detect because injuries are invisible and symptoms can arise hours and days later. Many players hide injuries to avoid being taken out of games. Children and young adults may have a harder time self-diagnosing a concussion or understanding the language in helmet warnings.