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Mind and Body

Old Leather Football Helmets More Efficient Than Modern Ones, Study Says

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning looks for a receiver during the second half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010, in Denver. The Colts won 27-13. (AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

When it comes to protecting football players, old-fashioned leather helmets may work just as efficiently at preventing concussions as modern ones, according to a study from the Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Adam Bartsch, lead author of the study, said the results raise a red flag.

“Knowing that a leather helmet and a modern helmet are sometimes comparable in those hits, that’s concerning for long-term impact for dosage accumulation, so many, many years of hits over a career, season, might cause long term damage,” Bartsch said.

During trials, researchers used test dummies wearing both leather helmets and modern-day helmets at simulated collisions with the speed and level of impact comparable to hits in college and high school football.

Results showed that the old leather helmets offered similar, or in some cases, better protection against head injuries than modern helmets.

However, Bartsch said this doesn’t mean that players should go back to wearing leather helmets. Instead, he thinks the current helmet designs need to be updated, because they are based on preventing skull fractures, not concussion.

“This is such an interesting finding that there actually may be a reason to examine helmet designs other than the current hard shell, with a face mask and really stiff interior padding, and also to examine how we’re testing these helmets,” he said.

The results were published in the Journal of Neurosurgery.