Are They Effective or Not?


Conclusive evidence that helmets actually prevent or reduce the severity of head injuries in Australian football is not available. It is believed that helmets can reduce the number of laceration injuries to the head but their role in preventing closed head injuries or concussion is unclear. Theoretically helmets can potentially reduce the effect of a direct impact on the head and thereby reducing the chance of sustaining a concussive injury but concussion can also occur without a direct blow to the head (e.g., a blow to the jaw Some suggest that the soft head protector has a role in the return to sport of recently concussed players but there is no formal evidence to support this. There is no evidence to suggest that an individual with a history of concussion has a greater risk of subsequent concussive episodes . Thus, the routine prescription of helmets post concussive episode does not appear to be warranted for return to sport.


Several possible detrimental effects of helmets have been suggested in the literature. • creating a false sense of security in which players wearing headgear place too much faith in their helmet and put themselves in much riskier situations (e.g. go in harder for the ball, etc.) • a risk of thermal injury since the helmet provides a barrier to evaporative heat loss • increasing the size of the “target” i.e. larger area to be struck • limitation of player vision and therefore, reduction of a player’s awareness of what is occurring in their peripheral vision • a risk that the helmet will distribute the force of impact all over the head and therefore create a more diffuse head injury.


A report on head and neck injuries in football released by the NHMRC concluded that there is currently no available head protection that has been demonstrated to reduce the risk of injury in Australian football (NHMRC, 1994).