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Helmets won't cure football's concussion headache

By Caroline Finch and Andrew McIntosh

There is currently no evidence to show that helmets prevent concussion or more serious head injury in sports like AFL and rugby.

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We’ve heard a lot about concussion this AFL season, with claims that too many knocks to the head can cause mental illness, calls for more research into the possible link between football concussions and long-term brain injury, the enforcement of mandatory headgear for junior players in some clubs, and calls for all AFL players to wear protective helmets.

The AFL responded to these concerns by releasing a position statement which recommends helmets not be used for the prevention of concussion. It also claims “younger players who wear a helmet may change their playing style, and receive more head impacts as a result”.

So has the AFL got its policy right?

Severe head injuries in Australian football and the rugby codes are not common, with just nine cases of severe traumatic brain injury reported in Victoria in the 31 years to 1999....

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Caroline Finch is Professor in Injury Research at Monash Injury Research Institute at Monash University. Andrew McIntosh is a Researcher at the Monash Injury Research Institute at Monash University.

Caroline Finch receives funding from the NHMRC, ARC and sports bodies to undertake sports injury prevention research, including into the prevention of sports injury. She has been a Chief Investigator on competitively funded research grants that have studied the epidemiology, causes and prevention of head injury in various football codes, including helmet studies. This research has received funding from the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, the International Rugby Board and/or the Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development (Sport and Recreation Division).

Andrew McIntosh has received funding for his sporting injury research and/or as a consultant from the NIH(USA), Australian Research Council, VicHealth, Sport and Recreation Victoria, Australian Football League, Australian Rugby Union, International Rugby Board. NSW Sporting Injures Committee, NSW Racing, Albion Sports and the International Olympic Committee.

This article was originally published at The Conversation.