Various types of football helmets, face masks, and face mask loop straps, and their effects on the efficiency of face mask removal

Principle Investigator: Erik E. Swartz, Ph.D.

Institution: University of New Hampshire, NH

Title: Various types of football helmets, face masks, and face mask loop straps, and their effects on the efficiency of face mask removal

Abstract: Football helmets meet specific standards in order to prevent injury to the head. However, it is the helmet, face mask, and loop strap themselves which act to prevent access to the airway following a potentially catastrophic injury. As such, there is no research currently available that has investigated whether the design of football equipment will have a deleterious effect on the ability to gain airway access during a suspected spine injury (SI). Additionally, with dramatic modifications seen in helmets, it is imperative to determine whether the design presents a hindrance to properly managing a suspected SI.

The objective of this study is to analyze the efficiency of face mask removal in various styles of helmets, face masks, and loop straps. Three face mask removal tools will be used. The specific aims of the project are to:

  1. Assess time, total movement, and total range of motion, during face mask removal using different styles of helmets, face masks, and loop straps.
  2. Compare performance of three popular removal tools for time, total movement, and total range of motion.
  3. Determine degree of satisfaction with the removal tools.
  4. Determine if grip strength, hand length, or hand width influence the removal task.

The helmets used will be the Schutt Air Advantage, Riddell VSR-4, and Riddell Revolution. A typical, yet different face mask style from each manufacturer will be used. The loop straps will include the Schutt Armourguard, Riddell standard, Shockblocker, Stabilizer, Riddell Revolution standard, and a Riddell Revolution loop strap currently in testing. The tools will include the FM Extractor II, cordless screwdriver, and Trainer’s Angel. Thirty-six athletic trainers, divided into 3 groups will participate. Subjects will report for a familiarization trial and 2-3 days later to perform the experiment. A research assistant will wear properly fitted football equipment for all trials. Subjects will remove the face mask while kneeling behind the model’s head. Time, movement, satisfaction, and hand measurements will be analyzed. The identification of any equipment features inhibiting airway management will serve to meet the goals of NOCSAE in maintaining safety in athletic equipment design. It is expected that our results will determine if helmet, face mask, or loop strap style affect the ability to access the airway. This investigation could have wide ranging impact for participants in football at every competitive level. All members of the sports medicine team could immediately benefit from the findings of this study.

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