n International SportMed Journal - Helmets and head protection for the athlete as a means to prevent injury : review article




Head injury and concussion remain of great concern in sports. The use of helmets in sport is widespread as a method of reducing the incidence and severity of head injury. For helmets to function well designers and standards organisations need to be informed of sport specific hazards and head injury risks. These data are available, but due to regional and competition level differences within a sport, and differences in injury surveillance systems, there are large discrepancies. Unfortunately, due to the material limitations helmets are designed to meet a fairly narrow range of impact hazards. It is important that the sports can convey their needs to the standards organisations and manufacturers, e.g. a helmet to prevent intra-cranial haemorrhage and skull fracture resulting from a severe high-speed impact or a helmet to prevent concussion in a contact sport, like rugby union football. The paper describes these issues and attempts to integrate the biomechanical aspects of head injury and helmet performance, helmet test methods and sport requirements. On a practical level, athletes can be advised on the correct selection and adjustment of helmets, and on the limitations in helmet performance. Other factors, such as technique, rules and rule enforcement, and venue preparation are important in reducing head injury.


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