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Off-the-shelf football gear offers same protection as custom-built

Ashley Hirtzel
High school football game.

Special mouth guards and helmets marketed to help reduce concussions may not actually provide any additional protection for football players a new report claims. The findings are from a 2012 study that followed 1,332 high school athletes during a season.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin followed the football players in grades 9 through 12 at 36 high schools across the country. They compared players wearing custom-fitted mouth guards and helmets with those wearing off-the-shelf gear. Nearly 10 percent of the players they tracked experienced injuries during the season.

Medical Director of the University at Buffalo Concussion Management Clinic John Leddy discusses the report’s findings.

“What they found over that year was that there was no difference in the instance of concussion whether you had a new helmet or an old helmet or by helmet brand. Interestingly, the kids who had a custom mouth guard made actually had a higher incidence of concussion than the ones who bought just the store bought kind,” she said.

The study says that consumers should be cautious of manufacturer’s claims that their products offer a higher level of protection.

“The best thing to tell kids about equipment is that when you’re playing football you should have a helmet that fits well and that they wear it properly all the time, and wear some sort of mouth guard to protect their teeth,” said Leddy.

Leddy agrees there’s no current evidence that any piece of equipment is better than another at reducing the risk of concussion.

WBFO/Western New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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