Helmets and chest protectors: How to keep your child safe

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(April 14, 2016) -- There is no such thing as zero risk in the game of football, but athletic equipment manufacturers, parents and coaches are pushing for upgrades to equipment worn by student athletes, to keep them safe.

This week, the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, in meetings at NCAA headquarters, laid out the plans for chest protectors used by lacrosse players and baseball catchers.

It turns out 15 to 20 youngsters die every year after being hit in the chest.  Usually a freak accident, the force of the ball slamming into a youngster’s heart can disrupt the heartbeat, causing sudden death. New specifications for chest protectors will give manufacturers the outline of what needs to be done, and parents the assurance that their child is being protected.

“I can tell you this, if they are wearing a protector that meets the standard that we’ve published, I have an extremely high level of confidence that the chances of that person sustaining a sudden cardiac death from impact, is almost negligible,” said NOCSAE general counsel, Michael Oliver.

Extensive testing has been carried out to reach these specifications for manufacturers.

“We know from research, primarily Dr. Mark link from Tufts, that if you can reduce those forces down below a certain level you can almost eliminate the chance of sustaining sudden cardiac death,” Oliver said.

And while the NOCSAE has come up with the specifications, it’s up to the manufacturers to come up with the materials to achieve the result.

“We tell them this is what you have to accomplish, this is the end result, how you get there, is up to you.”

Chest protectors carrying the latest specifications may not hit the market until January 2017.

Although helmets were not the focus of this week’s meetings at the NCAA, there is always a discussion about the latest technology to reduce the chances of concussion.  According to Oliver, the data shows that there is no one helmet made that prevents concussions.

“The brand makes no difference, the model makes no difference. What does make a difference is the condition of the helmet,” said Oliver.

He recommends parents and athletic departments look for a specific label on the back of any previously worn helmet, indicating it was reconditioned up to industry standards. Helmets that have been used 3, 4 or 5 years without reconditioning could pose a higher risk for concussions.

“So if you have a helmet that hasn’t been reconditioned or properly cared for, the chances of getting a concussion in that helmet are higher than they would be in the other helmets,” Oliver said.

For more information on testing and manufacturer specifications for athletic equipment click here.

4 Your Health is presented by American Senior Communities 


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