While I was bothering Byram Hills coach Matty Allen about something or another earlier this summer, he happened to mention that he was toying with the idea of having all of the goalkeepers in his program wear protective headgear this season. I had seen these type of helmets on the field a few times — former Blind Brook keeper Scott Wurtzel stuck out in my mind — and I wondered if this might turn into a growing trend.
On the surface, it makes sense — let’s do everything that we can to protect the head, and more specifically, the brain. But as I dug deeper into the issue, several sources made it very clear to me that they weren’t sold on the headgear quite yet. The National Federation of State High School Associations issued a lengthy statement in which it points out that helmets being sold for concussion prevention is “not scientifically or medically supported.” The NFHS also wonders if the headgear provides “a false sense of security” for those who wear it. And they’re not the only ones.
I asked several coaches and officials about the helmets, many of which had similar questions. As NYS boys soccer chairman Mike Andrew said to me, “football helmets are of the highest technology, and even those don’t prevent concussions.” And doctors who have studied this issue have voiced similar concerns. The fact is, if two players bang heads hard enough, or if a player has his head snap back into the ground or a goal post, there will always be the risk for head trauma. (Unless we just start having them play in bubbles.)
With all of that being said, it certainly can’t hurt to wear the headgear. By no means is this an effort to dissuade players from using it. It certainly can prevent certain bumps, bruises and lacerations, and even if it decreases the chances for a concussion by a minor percentage, it’s probably worth giving it a try. But based on the current research, most believe that it shouldn’t be viewed as a solution to concussion prevention.
Photos and video by Mark Vergari/The Journal News