BUFFALO, N.Y. – It’s been 18 years since a pro-hockey player skated on the ice without a helmet during a game. The National Hockey League began mandating that all players wear protective head gear in 1979. Even then, the league knew helmets could protect players from severe brain injuries but a new study suggests hockey helmets are in fact, unsafe.
Engineers at Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering recently examined football helmets and the impacts that cause traumatic brain injuries. Their findings helped change the sport, making it safer for athletes. The school has now developed new research for the sport of hockey and its initial findings were mind-jarring.
Virginia Tech released its five-star ratings for hockey helmets, judging their abilities to prevent concussions. Of the 32 brand-name helmets engineers tested, zero had a perfect score. In fact, none of the helmets could even get four stars. The highest rated helmet had just three stars. The 31 other head accessories tested earned just adequate or marginal scores.
“What we’re seeing here is a severe lack of attention to the biggest problem in sports today: concussions,” personal injury attorney Ross Cellino said. “Many of these helmets are costing consumers $100 to almost $300 and they’re doing very little to protect skaters from brain injuries.”
According to Virginia Tech engineers, cost had no impact on a helmet’s safety rating.
Researchers tested each of the helmets a total of 48 times, pummeling the headwear with battering rams a total of 2,000 times both in a laboratory and on an ice rink. The vast majority of the helmets tested scored zero or one star.
“We’re learning more about concussions and other brain injuries every day,” Cellino said. “We’ve seen how these injuries suffered in a car accident or in sports can change someone’s life forever so it’s important that these findings be used to develop better protective equipment and safer strategies to limit an athlete’s exposure to these hits.”
Researchers plan to analyze helmets for baseball, softball, lacrosse. and youth football in the next decade.