Group Supports Research into Brain Injuries Among Athletes

June 21, 2011

Board members of the organization that sets voluntary safety standards for athletic equipment have approved $1.1 million in grants to research traumatic brain injury, a step toward protecting athletes from concussions.

At its summer meeting, the board of the National Organizing Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment approved three new research grants totaling nearly $500,000, and re-approved $610,000 initially voted on at its winter meeting.

The new studies would develop the protocol for testing the safety of football helmets, and investigate hits that cause a player’s head to turn, creating diffuse brain injury. A third will look at biomechanical factors associated with mild traumatic brain injury.

The study that required re-approval in the new fiscal year involves explaining gender differences in concussion rates among lacrosse, basketball and soccer players.

“We’re trying to get across that a lot of work needs to be done and be done with some dispatch,” said the nonprofit’s executive director, Mike Oliver. “Normally you might see that amount go for studies over a five-year period. But these are directed for two years, to try to get results as quickly as we can.”

The group has devoted more than $2.5 million in research toward athlete safety since 2000. The board of directors, which include doctors, engineers, coaches and equipment companies, agreed in January there wasn’t enough scientific data to move forward with creating stiffer football helmet standards.

The nonprofit also tentatively defined a “youth football player” as an athlete younger than 14 who has not yet played high school football. The move is a step toward developing safety standards for youth football helmets. The language is up for review for a year.

Representatives from U.S. Lacrosse also asked the organization to create standards for female lacrosse helmets. Standards exist only for men’s helmets. Women have traditionally not worn headgear.

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