NBC 5 Investigation Prompts Helmet Changes at Fort Worth ISD

Links: NBC 5 Investigates Helmet TrackerVirginia Tech Safety Study

The Fort Worth Independent School District has pulled and is replacing football helmets after an NBC 5 Investigation raised questions about the safety of older helmets still being used at schools in North Texas.

NBC 5 Investigates found players at more than a dozen local schools still wearing helmets that received poor ratings in new research from Virginia Tech University.

Researchers compared helmet models to see which best reduced the chance of a concussion. NBC 5 Investigates found 20 DFW schools still using helmets rated at just one or two stars which are the lowest ratings.

Fort Worth ISD had only a tiny number of 1-star rated helmets left with just eight players wearing the Riddell VSR4 out of thousands.

Last week, NBC 5 Investigates asked the school district why they wouldn't replace the helmets with newer models. In a recent interview Fort Worth ISD Athletic Director, Kevin Greene, said he had not seen the Virginia Tech rating scale and wasn't familiar with the research.

On Friday, just one day after the first story aired, the superintendent wrote a memo to the school board that stated:

"While we have every confidence in the safety of the helmets that have been used in our program, we have removed and replaced one particular helmet, the Riddell VSR-4 of which concern was raised. We have done this in an abundance of caution and so that it is understood that we put the safety of our children first."

"As of this week, all of our schools use helmets that have been awarded a 4 or 5 stars rating."

Last week NBC 5’s investigation also prompted Northwest ISD to replace at least 100 low-rated helmets worn by freshman and junior varsity players at Northwest High School.

Riddell, the maker of the VSR4 helmet, says it was once the most advanced helmet in the marketplace.  But today the company says it,"has programs in place to encourage those playing football to transition to new helmets that incorporate more advanced technology."

NBC 5 Investigates Helmet Tracker

To see which helmets are in use at which schools, use the map below to select a school and see which helmets are in their inventory. The inventory will also display the helmet’s rating.

About the Virginia Tech Football Helmet Rating System

Since 2011, researchers at Virginia Tech tested a total of 23 adult football helmet models. Each helmet was evaluated using a star evaluation system included in the the Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings™. Click here to read the entire study. Please note, youth helmets were not included in this study.

A note from Virginia Tech: Any player in any sport can sustain a head injury with even the very best head protection. This analysis is based on data trends and probabilities, and therefore a specific person's risk may vary. This variation is likely dominated by genetic differences, health history, and impact factors such as muscle activation.

About NBC5 Investigates Helmet Tracker: NBC 5 Investigates filed open records requests with 45 school districts in the Dallas/Fort Worth area asking for their helmet inventory at more than 350 high schools and middle schools that have football programs. Records were collected from August 5, 2014 to September 3, 2014 and complied to make a searchable database. This database will be updated as additional school districts continue to respond with information. Please note, most middle schools use a youth size helmet and youth helmets were not included in the Virginia Tech study. Therefore any youth sized helmet reported by a middle school will be marked with an N/A rating in our database. Also, if a school district did not provide enough detailed information for us to verify the make and model of the helmet we also marked it with an N/A rating. Some schools may not use every helmet in their inventory so if you have specific questions concerning whether a specific helmet make and model is actually in use at a certain school, it’s best to ask the school for more information. If you see information that you believe needs to be updated, please email Investigative producer, Eva Parks at eva.parks@nbcuni.com.

To see our NBC 5 Investigates Helmet Tracker from our smartphone app, click here.

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