Dr. Swartz, who had played college rugby, a sport that involves hard tackling, no helmets and surprisingly few head injuries, had developed drills for these helmetless practices, emphasizing proper tackling technique and no spearing with the head. The coaches, told that the researchers “really believed that this program would reduce head impacts,” agreed, Dr. Swartz said.
And so, during the 2014 preseason, half of the U.N.H. football team began practicing twice a week without helmets, following a carefully prescribed series of drills. The other half of the team completed standard practices, with helmets. During the regular season, the players assigned to the helmetless group continued to practice once a week without helmets.Throughout this time, all team members wore helmets equipped with sensors that tracked the number and force of impacts to their heads.
Early in the season, head impacts were comparable in both groups, the researchers found. But as the season progressed, the players who occasionally practiced without helmets began to experience considerably fewer blows to their heads.By the end of the season, they were hitting their heads about 30 percent less often in any given game or practice than the players who never took their helmets off during drills.
We love this investigation into reducing head injuries because it acknowledges that football is here to stay — and tries to reduce injury by working within the system. We feel the same way about food. We acknowledge that junk food is here to stay but try to work within this unhealthy system in order to show our customers a path that balances the bad with the good.