Northwest High School is replacing 100 helmets after an NBC 5 investigation revealed some freshman and junior varsity players were wearing older helmets that received a 1-star “marginal” rating in a Virginia Tech study.
According to Susan Elza, executive director of athletics at Northwest Independent School District, the low-rated helmets will no longer be used and will be replaced this week.
The helmets received a low rating in a study conducted by researchers comparing helmet models to see which ones were best at reducing the chance of a concussion. The Virginia Tech study found concussion risk can be cut in half by replacing a 1-star helmet and wearing a 4-star model instead.
“If your kid is wearing a 1-star helmet you should be very involved with the school to get rid of those helmets,” said Dr. Stefan Duma, a concussion expert at Virginia Tech.
When NBC 5 Investigates brought that research to the attention of the Northwest ISD last week, they immediately took action and decided to remove 1-star helmets that weren’t scheduled for retirement until next year.
“For us, we were just proactive. We accelerated a process that was going to happen anyways. We felt like it was the best thing to do,” said Elza.
Replacing the helmets will cost the district about $30,000, but it’s a price tag they’re willing to pay to give parents extra piece of mind.
Northwest High School is one of nine schools that NBC 5 Investigates identified as having 1-star rated helmets.
NBC 5 Investigates obtained helmet records from hundreds of schools at 45 school districts. Since the report aired, the Fort Worth Independent School District got rid of its last 1-star helmets. Denton Ryan High School confirmed players are no longer wearing them and Lewisville High School also recently decided to replace them.
But in Garland, 50 players are still wearing 1-star models and the district has no immediate plans to change.
When asked if out of an abundance of caution they should move to a better-rated helmet, Odenwald said, “I don't think so, because we've done everything we could do.”
Garland officials explained those helmets still meet the standards of NOCSAE -- The National Committee that certifies athletic equipment and the group Garland has looked to for years to tell them if a helmet is safe.
The Virginia Tech research has now created confusion.
“The ratings for the Virginia tech research is good, but what's more important to us is the conditioning company that looks at our helmets that reconditions our helmets to test them to make sure that they're safe for our students because we'll never compromise safety with a student,” said Odenwald.
Even at Northwest ISD, they still think the old helmets were OK, but they didn’t want parents to have any doubts.
“We've gotten some positive comments from parents that, you know, ‘Thank you for doing this. Thank you for keeping our kids safe.’ But I’ll go back to it again, we really thought they were safe in the first place,” said Elza.
Parents should know that every new adult helmet sold today is is 4- or 5-star rated. Youth helmets weren’t rated as part of the Virginia Tech study. But even a 5-star helmet can’t prevent all concussions.
Using records obtained from school districts, NBC5 Investigates created an online helmet tracker to give parents and players information about the helmets local schools are using. Since our initial report more districts have provided updated information to add to the database including the independent school districts in McKinney, Grand Prairie and Southlake-Carroll.
To see our NBC 5 Investigates Helmet Tracker from our smartphone app, click here.