If you listened to the warning on football helmets, you wouldn’t be playing the sport.
Here is what the helmet manufacturer Schutt Sports says on its safety headgear: “No helmet system can protect you from serious brain and/or neck injuries including paralysis or death. To avoid these risks, do not engage in the sport of football.”
The New York Times recently cited that warning in an article that was essentially about how helmet manufacturers try to protect themselves from liability. After all, there have been a flood of lawsuits involving head injuries and football, including the consolidated suits of several thousand former and current NFL players against the league. Liability and head injuries is a big issue these days.
It isn’t until the last two paragraphs of the story that the bottom line of the meaning of these warnings is explained. Lawyers for those who have been injured playing football told The Times that helmet warnings “are a smoke screen to protect manufacturers who promote safety … yet throw up walls when athletes are injured wearing their helmets.”
As the issue of concussions and sports had come under the national spotlight, there’s been more scrutiny on just how well helmets protect athletes playing football. And there has been litigation. The Times cited a Colorado case in April where a jury found helmet maker Riddell liable for not properly warning players about the risk if head injuries while wearing its helmets.
Riddell was ordered to pay $3.1 million in damages to a man who suffered a head injury while playing football in high school in 2008, according to The Times. Riddell said it will appeal the verdict.
The Times noted that the jury didn’t find that Riddell’s helmets were defective, but the panel did find that several of the plaintiff’s coaches were negligent for not properly handling his injury.
The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, Nocsae, has a template for helmet warnings that manufacturers use, tailoring it for their helmets with the help of lawyers.
Schutt’s rather blunt warning, about death and paralysis, caused a fuss and scared off some consumers, The Times reported.
Football helmets have been marvelously successful preventing skull fractures for those who play the game, the newspaper noted. But concussions, that’s a trickier injury to prevent.