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First ratings for youth football helmets address sport's largest pool of athletes

March 20, 2019

Picture of sensors in a youth football helmet
Sensors lining a youth football helmet record impacts a player experiences on the field. The data has helped researchers in the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab design a rating system tailored to the needs of youth players, whose concussion risk differs from that of older athletes.

The majority of people playing football in the U.S. aren’t NFL players or collegiate athletes — they’re youth players, less than 14 years old. But until now, there hasn’t been independent data evaluating the effectiveness of the helmets these athletes wear on the field.

With the release of youth football helmet ratings by the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab — already renowned for their helmet ratings for varsity football and other sports — consumers can see for the first time which helmets best reduce concussion risk.  

Data from the group’s studies of head impacts among youth football players allowed them to design test methods that reflect the types of impacts these athletes actually experience on the field. 

“For the first time we’ve adapted the way we evaluate helmets in the lab to be youth-specific,” explained Steve Rowson, an associate professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics and the Helmet Lab’s director. “Now, players, parents, leagues, and coaches have access to independent data about which helmets offer the best protection, and they can use the ratings as a tool to make informed decisions.” 

Seven helmet models earned five stars — the highest possible rating — and the rest earned three or four. The ratings include every youth football helmet currently on the market, and every company had at least one five-star model. 

Read the full story on Virginia Tech News