A concussion is a serious and often career-ending event for many athletes and can occur even when wearing a helmet.

A study by Virginia Tech tested 32 brands of hockey helmets on their ability to reduce concussion risk and found that the majority failed. In fact, only one helmet (Warrior Krown 360, $79.98) managed a 3/5 star rating. However, this evaluation is flawed in that it does not encompass the multitude of factors necessary for creating a functional and effective helmet. Nevertheless, the results are compelling.

A helmet expert, David Pearsall, from the McGill Ice Hockey Research Group has some advice. He agues that bigger helmets are not necessarily better, proper fit is crucial and secondhand helmets may not provide the same protection, especially 6-10 years after fabrication. However, he also mentions the biggest factor in helmet safety is the user. Wearing protection properly and routinely is essential.

You can argue concussions are increasing in contact sports like football and hockey, but whether this increase is due to ineffective helmets, bigger players and harder hits, or better medical detection technology is not so clear.

Nevertheless, concussions are often at the heart of lawsuits. Most recently, the family of Steve Montador, a former Chicago Blackhawk who died unexpectedly at the age of 35, is suing the National Hockey League. The cause of death is unnamed, but an autopsy of his brain revealed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the brain disease that is associated with repeated head trauma.

Finally, head injuries should not be taken lightly and if helmets aren’t doing athletes justice, then what will?

For more:

Concussions are a top-of-mind issue in hockey

Steve Montador’s family sues NHL

Steve Montador donates brain to research

Image source: http://rumorsandrants.com/2012/01/2011-losers-of-the-year.html