NOCSAE announces new helmet standard to address concussions

By Bill Bradley, contributing editor

NOCSAE's board of directors approved the development of new football helmet-production standards to limit the forces that cause concussions, the group announced Friday.

The new National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment standards will be voted on in June and could be implemented as soon as September 2015. NOCSAE sets the safety standard for production of most protective sporting goods.

The revised standards would require NOCSAE-certified football helmets to meet a new testing method that also will evaluate a helmet's performance under a combination of rotational forces that come with head injuries. The previous standard only protected players from skull fractures with concussion prevention considered a byproduct.

The decision came after NOCSAE's winter meeting last week in Phoenix, where three research projects were presented to take the group's standards to the next level.

"The three directed research projects presented at our winter meeting clarified those issues that the board felt were necessary to move forward with a revised standard," said NOCSAE executive director Mike Oliver. "While it is unlikely the concussion risk can ever be eliminated from sports, this revised football-helmet standard should bring us closer to effectively addressing some of the forces associated with concussions."

Oliver said in a Q&A with NFL Evolution during the meeting that he hoped such changes were on the way.

Three research projects were recommended by Dr. Robert Cantu, who is chairman of NOCSAE's Scientific Advisory Committee.

"NOCSAE has been focused on sports-related concussions for more than 15 years, and has funded more than $8 million in concussion-specific research since 1996," said Dr. Cantu. "Based upon the research presented at this meeting as well as all the concussion research that came before, I believe NOCSAE is finally at a point where we can revise our standard to incorporate the science and provide improved protection against concussions."

An official with USA Football, which sponsors the Heads Up Football program, was encouraged by the news.

"This is promising news," USA Football spokesman Steve Alic said. "In addition to advancements in equipment, establishing important standards rooted in education, such as those within our Heads Up Football program, we will continue to convert awareness into action for the benefit of our young athletes."