Can sports helmets prevent a concussion?

Jennifer J. Beck, MD
Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery
Research has shown that CURRENT sports helmets don't do anything to prevent a concussion. There are a lot of myths out there about helmets and pads. A concussion occurs from a spinning-type motion, not a direct hit to the head, so CURRENT helmets and pads cannot provide SUFFICIENT protection needed to prevent a concussion. RESEARCH INTO HELMET TECHNOLOGY AND PREVENTION STRATEGIES IS ONGOING.
Helmets can help prevent concussions, says Vivek Sharma, MD, from John Randolph Medical Center. Learn more about technologically advanced helmets in this video.
Jaspal R. Singh, MD
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
The technology in helmets has greatly advanced over the years. However, while helmets can reduce the risk of blunt force trauma and help prevent serious head injuries, concussions can and still do occur in those who wear one. The most critical element regarding concussions is early identification and removal from the game.
Christopher Giza, MD
If you read the advertisements regarding sports helmets it seems like there are helmets that can prevent concussions. The consensus among experts in the field and all evidence-based reviews that actually look at published studies is that you cannot prevent a concussion with a helmet. The brain floats in fluid inside the skull. It doesn't matter how much bubble wrap you put around it if the skull moves back and forth. Sometimes, I tell the athlete that it's like a pickle floating in a pickle jar; it's going to move around in there. A helmet can dampen forces, so it's very important because it protects against skull fractures and bleeding in the brain, but there will never be a concussion-proof helmet.

This content originally appeared online at UCLA Health.
Given our current technology, there’s no helmet out there that can entirely prevent a concussion from occurring. The helmets that we have now assist in dissipating the blow over a larger area so that the force is less detrimental on one specific location. But in order to prevent a concussion, a helmet has to be able to absorb a significant amount of the blow, as opposed to translating the force of that blow.

(This answer provided for NATA by the Georgia College & State University Athletic Training Education Program.)

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.