Since the introduction of head protection, a decrease in sports-related traumatic brain injuries has been reported. The incidence of concussive injury, however, has remained the same or on the rise. These trends suggest that current helmets and helmet standards are not effective in protecting against concussive injuries. This article presents a literature review that describes the discrepancy between how helmets are designed and tested and how concussions occur. Most helmet standards typically use a linear drop system and measure criterion such as head Injury criteria, Gadd Severity Index, and peak linear acceleration based on research involving severe traumatic brain injuries. Concussions in sports occur in a number of different ways that can be categorized into collision, falls, punches, and projectiles. Concussive injuries are linked to strains induced by rotational acceleration. Because helmet standards use a linear drop system simulating fall-type injury events, the majority of injury mechanisms are neglected. In response to the need for protection against concussion, helmet manufacturers have begun to innovate and design helmets using other injury criteria such as rotational acceleration and brain tissue distortion measures via finite-element analysis. In addition to these initiatives, research has been conducted to develop impact protocols that more closely reflect how concussions occur in sports. Future research involves a better understanding of how sports-related concussions occur and identifying variables that best describe them. These variables can be used to guide helmet innovation and helmet standards to improve the quality of helmet protection for concussive injury.
Current Concepts in Sports Concussion is online and full-text access is free.