Concussions have stood at the forefront of safety concerns in football for the past decade.
In the past year, the IHSAA has cracked down on concussions and raised awareness on the issue while implementing policies to ensure coaches and players know the correct procedures to identify injury.
Before the start of the 2015 season, Seymour High School’s administration approved the purchase of 80 top-of-the-line helmets to combat concussions and improve player safety.
From seventh grade up, Owls football players will wear the Riddell SpeedFlex Helmet, a five-star rated helmet that’s worn in the National Football League.
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Retail, the new helmets cost $324.99 to $399.99.
The school spent more than $50,000 to buy the helmets, in bulk, according to Owls athletics director Brandon Harpe.
Kyle Coates, a certified athletics trainer from Schneck Medical Center who works the sidelines during football games, said the new helmets should lower the number of concussions.
Coates said that there were fewer than five diagnosed concussions at Seymour in 2014.
“The older ones were good helmets, but we wanted everyone in the best helmet,” Coates said.
“We got 40 for varsity and 40 for middle schoolers, so everyone is in a five-star helmet. We want to give each kids the best-rated helmet out there by the manufacturers. Even though helmets don’t eliminate concussions, it greatly reduces our risks.
“With these helmets, it has to do the helmet shell and facemask. It reduces the impact force and transfers it throughout the helmet. Especially helmet-to-helmet. It also has side-impact protection.”
Some schools recondition helmets year after year without buying new shells.
The helmet shell warranty with Riddell is five years for varsity helmets and three years for youth helmets.
It’s also recommended that teams purchase new helmets every 10 years.
The five-star helmets have been rated by top concussion researchers in the country. Since 2011, Virginia Tech University has researched and provided helmet ratings, as an independent study, for purchasing helmets. The ratings are a culmination of 10 years of studies.
Professors Stefan Duma and Steve Rowson led the project. They have recorded more than 150,000 hits since 2013 using sensors, measuring the gravitational pull when a player is hit in the head or when his head is rattled in a violent hit to the body.
“A lot of schools, you can recondition a helmet, they take a used helmet and replace parts to it,” Coates said. “Even with those, the risk is increased. It’s not protecting the athlete like it should.”
The Owls have worn the new helmets in practice for three weeks.
Thus far this season, Owls varsity coach Josh Shattuck hasn’t heard much about the helmets from his players — but that’s a good thing.
“The whole point is you don’t want to hear about the helmets,” Shattuck said. “The look of the helmet, the kids get into that, but for me it’s strictly safety purposes. To me, it’s about what’s on the inside. We have a lot less kids this year complaining about headaches. No news is good news when it comes to getting hit. It seems to be doing the job.”
Shattuck said the football program didn’t ask for new helmets this season but the administration insisted on the purchase, so the Owls welcomed the change.
“They’re the newest helmet on the market,” Shattuck said. “This came straight from Superintendent (Rob) Hooker. We want to be able to say our kids wear a five-star helmet.”
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What: Silver Creek (0-0) at Seymour (0-0)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Bulleit Stadium
Coaches: John Dablow, 0-0 in first year at Silver Creek. Josh Shattuck, 2-18 in third year at Seymour.
Series past 30 years: First meeting