Approach of Football Season Brings Renewed Debate About Brain Injuries

A report this weekend in The New York Times raised new, and troubling, issues regarding football helmets and their ability to protect younger players from traumatic brain injuries.

The newspaper reported that the NFL, last Friday, released data sets related to helmet testing, despite criticism that the information is potentially misleading. The league, its committee on head injuries and the player’s union all concurred in the action, the paper reported. According to the Times, the release took place despite criticism from Congress that the data involved is “infected”, rendering the results potentially misleading. Two months ago the league promised New York Congressman Anthony Weiner that the testing program that yielded the data would be abandoned.

Particularly at issue was the nature of the testing undergone by several leading brands of football helmet used in NFL games. According to the Times, the data compiled by the league and later confirmed by independent analysts sought to recreate the kind of hits the equipment would experience in an NFL game. The goal was to determine which brands of helmet offer the best protection against skull fractures – a serious concern for players at the NFL level. Aside from criticism of the tests’ methodologies, Congress and other critics took issue with the results issuing from these tests, in which certain brands were labeled “top performing” for professional use – a designation that makes a compelling selling point for manufacturers.

The problem for parents here in Oregon and elsewhere is that youth, high school and even college football games bear little resemblance to the NFL in either the speed of play or the intensity of hits. In particular, the skull fractures about which pros worry are relatively uncommon at lower levels of the sport, whereas concussions and traumatic brain injuries are the especially serious issues. Both Rep. Weiner and the league’s outside critics worry that parents or coaches shopping for safety gear may wind up buying helmets that are not necessarily designed to offer the sort of protection they are actually seeking.

The Times piece is a reminder of the important role Oregon product liability issues can play in Portland traumatic brain injury cases, especially those stemming from sports injuries. The disputes outlined by the newspaper highlight how complex and nuanced Oregon personal injury law cases focusing on sports equipment can be. This, in turn, is a reminder of the important role a Portland traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury attorney can play in helping you sort through your legal options and obtain justice in the wake of an on-field tragedy.

The New York Times: Releasing Disputed Data on Helmets Puts Heat on NFL