The Ability of an Aftermarket Helmet Add-On Device to Reduce
Impact-Force Accelerations During Drop Tests
K, Breedlove E, Nauman E, Bowman T, Lininger MR. J Athl Train. 2017; ahead of
Take Home Message: A soft
cap for helmets failed to alter impact severity during a NOCSAE based drop-test
head impacts are a public health concern due to the potential long-term
consequences. Researchers are trying to develop new technologies to lessen these
problems by reducing head-impact magnitude. For example, a soft cap that is worn
over top of the helmet has been suggested to reduce head-impact magnitude;
however, the degree to which the soft cap reduces head impact severity has not
been measured. Therefore, the authors sought to evaluate the effectiveness of a
soft cap based on standards from the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE),
which involved

measuring the amount of acceleration during drop tests on helmets with and
without the soft cap. The authors used 9 new football helmets (3 Riddell Speed,
3 Xenith X2E, and 3 Xenith Epic helmets), and 9 new soft caps, supplied by the
manufacturer. Each helmet was dropped on 6 different helmet locations (front,
side, right front boss, right rear boss, rear, and top) at 3 different speeds
(low, medium, high) with and without the soft cap. All the trials passed the
NOCSAE acceleration threshold regardless of whether the soft cap was applied or
not, where all the velocities recorded from the drop were categorized as safe. Overall,
the trials with a soft cap typically had similar amounts of impact forces as
those without the caps.   
authors tested common football helmets at different velocities and locations
and did not identify substantial differences in acceleration between trials
with or without a soft cap. It should be noted that the NOCSAE protocol
represents 1 type of analysis that can determine efficacy in reducing head
impact severity of aftermarket devices like the soft cap. Additionally, the
NOCSAE protocol that the authors implemented was developed to eliminate skull
fractures and not the changes that can occur from concussive or subconcussive
impacts. Lastly, the authors point out that using an aftermarket add on device
would most likely void both the NOCSAE certification and manufacture warranty. It
would be interesting to see future studies investigating these devices in a
protocol more specific to concussion-like impacts as well as how it holds up
against repetitive head impacts using a helmet telemetry system to measure
helmet acceleration. In the meantime, medical professionals should look at the
evidence supporting the use of these devices before purchasing aftermarket
helmet add-ons. Medical professionals and coaches should also consider other
techniques to reduce the number of head impacts and concussion risk such as
education on concussion, practicing correct tackling techniques, and decreasing
the number of tackling practices or practices with full equipment.
Questions for Discussion:
Have you used any helmet technology designed to damper magnitude of impact? If
so, did you notice any effect? Do you think the aftermarket add-on device would
have any effect on reducing repetitive head impacts?
Written by: Jane McDevitt, PhD
by: Jeff Driban
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