Suffolk schools invest thousands to reduce concussion risk

SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Football season is here, and for many parents, that comes with the fear of their players getting injured. But for some folks in Suffolk, some new specially-designed equipment is diminishing the risk.

10 On Your Side has done extensive reporting about concussions and the importance of safer helmets. Earlier this year, we told you about a study out of Virginia Tech that ranked different brands of helmets, based on safety. One local school took that study to heart and decided to start the new season ranked at the top, in more ways than one.

Coach Jones at Suffolk’s King’s Fork High School said 42, brand new, top-of-the-line helmets don’t come cheap, but head injuries are nothing to play around with. So, not only did he get the district to buy in for the upgrade, he also got some outside help suiting his players for success from head to toe.

Photos: Suffolk’s safer football helmets

“It gets expensive when you talk about buying 40 or 50 helmets,” Coach Jones said. “You’re up in the several thousands of dollars with budget cuts and things like that, it’s tough. But, you’re talking about a young man’s head and brain and future. We big time stress safety, because the last thing I would ever want is for a young man to be hurt permanently from football.”

After looking at several studies, capped off by new data released by Jones’ Alma Mater, Virginia Tech, not only did King’s Fork make way in their own budget for the upgrade, a donor with deep ties to the team also chipped in, because they all believe in the importance of changing with the times.

“They’ll never make a helmet that’s going to prevent all concussions,” Jones said. “Kids are getting bigger, stronger faster, so the collisions are much more violent.”

But helmet designs are advancing to compensate, and Jones said the school has been emphasizing proper heads up tackling, too.

When the school was built, the three-star helmets sufficed. Several years later they stepped things up with one of the top rated helmets in the NFL in concussion tests, four-stars. You can pump air into them through valves to form fit around players heads. But the latest helmets take it one step further with pad modules built in.

This year, the team will start the season with new five-star Xenith helmets.

With shoulder pads and everything, Coach Jones said it costs about $400 to $500 to suit each player. Parents can purchase extra equipment, if they want.

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