Region 8 high school purchasing newer, safer helmets

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – As football season kicks off across Region 8, several local high schools continue to look for ways to increase safety from moderate to serious injuries.

According to Randy Coleman, Head Coach of the Jonesboro Golden Hurricane, the school has been purchasing new helmets that have better technology to reduce the likelihood of concussions. Coleman told Region 8 News Tuesday the school has purchased 38 new Schultz helmets similar to what college athletes use.

"Any time you're talking about a child's brain, head injuries, neck injuries, there's not a price tag that you can put on that," said Coleman.

However, Coleman said the price tag is expensive. To buy one specialized helmet, the cost could be anywhere from $225 to $300. To outfit a player with top of the line helmets and other gear, the price tag could exceed $900.

"The way we've done that is by taking a few helmets away a year and making a little bit of progress towards getting the best helmet out there," said Coleman. "It goes by position on who gets those helmets or if they have a history of concussions, we're trying to put those kids in the safest helmets we can get."

If the Jonesboro School District decided to outfit the entire team with the best gear on the market, the athletics department could shell out $63,000.

"You can't afford to pay $220 for 70 kids," said Coleman.

According to Andy Shatley, Director of Sports Medicine at St. Bernard's, concussions and neck injuries happen more than people think.

"Football is specifically a very violent sport, and there is a lot of collisions that go on and there are even going to be times where an athlete will say, whew I got my bell rung that time," said Shatley. "I would have to say the prevalence of at least one to two, maybe three a year per school so it happens quite often."

Shatley said St. Bernard's Sports Medicine provides four schools with athletic trainers throughout the year. Jonesboro, Westside, Valley View and Nettleton are all supplied with trainers. Other school districts in Region 8 also have athletic trainers.

Shatley said he works closely with Dr. Dan Johnson, who specializes in traumatic brain injuries and stroke.

"The force applied to the helmet transmits or translates the force applied to the skull," said Johnson. "If they continue to have concussions every year on the dot year after year after year, when they're 8j0 versus when you're 80, they're going to be in a lot worse shape."

Johnson said there have been hundreds of studies performed on brain injuries and concussions. He said the national debate on brain injuries has not been addressed as much on the local level.

"People go concussion, and they blow it off like it's a bump on the head, and we're learning more and more, that it's not such a case," said Johnson. "When he gets hit, you can instantly see the way the brain slams against the side of the hit, but it also rebounds, sometimes with more force, on the side away from the impact."

Johnson said many times, when a player receives a concussion, his brain begins to swell and the player is sidelined with headaches and memory loss.

Johnson said the only cure for concussion is rest and time. He said when the brain is injured, if it is not fully healed, then a player could die if he gets another concussion.

Coleman said whether the team has newer helmets or not, it's still the coaches job to make sure kids follow the proper fundamentals.

"It's our job as coaches to teach proper technique in tackling using the shoulders to tackle instead of using the helmet," said Coleman. "The actual shell is bigger than the old helmet because of the increase in padding and you can see that they're a little bit like shock absorbers."

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