Dr. Robert Cantu Outlines Strategies to Help Football Players Play Safer

Practicing smart, changing some of the rules, institutionalizing more consistent officiating, and placing an emphasis on strengthening the neck are all ways that would help football players avoid concussion.

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[Dr. Robert Cantu] Well I think helmets have gotten better unquestionably. NOCSAE's test currently utilizes a drop test and only, therefore, linear acceleration forces. But the new helmets need to get under 1200 severity index as a number. Many of them test out under 500 brand new. So helmets have gotten a great deal better. But helmets, though they greatly attenuate linear focal straight-ahead forces, they don't well attenuate rotational forces. And so I don't believe helmets will ever be the solution to eliminating concussions. Well I think number one is to understand the concept of practicing smart, not hitting unnecessarily in practice. Don't do drills in practice like "bull in a ring" or the Oklahoma drill that have to do with toughness but have nothing to do with the skills of football and only can inflict—and can inflict brain injury. So I think we need to practice smart. I think we need rules changes, taking purposeful use of the helmet out of the game. I think we need better officiating. Some of those rules are there, they're just not being officiated. And then I think we need a strong emphasis on strengthening the neck as much as humanly possible because to the extent you have strong neck muscles and they're able to see the hit coming, you can greatly reduce the rotational forces the brain would see.
Posted on BrainLine August 30, 2013.

About the author: Robert Cantu, MD

Robert Cantu, MD is chief of Neurosurgery Service, chairman Department of Surgery, and director of Sports Medicine, Emerson Hospital; clinical professor, Department of Neurosurgery, and co-director, Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, Boston University School of Medicine.

Dr. Robert Cantu

Produced by Noel Gunther and Erica Queen, BrainLine.