Albion acts quickly to replace low rated football helmets

By Mike Wertman, Sports Writer Posted 30 July 2014 at 12:00 am

Photo by Mike Wertman – Albion varsity football coach Gary Parisi here displays one of the Purple Eagles new helmets purchased by the district to meet new safety standards.

With the start of preseason practice less than three weeks away high school football will soon be swinging back into the forefront of the area sports scene.

And as is the case at every other level of football, the new season brings major interest in, and concern, about player safety especially concerning concussions.

Toward that end Buffalo TV station WGRZ has conducted a survey of the safety ratings of football helmets being used by all the schools in Section VI. The survey was compiled using helmet inventory lists provided by the schools, information obtained through Freedom of Information requests.

For decades all high school helmets have been certified and are reconditioned annually. However, a recent study conducted by Virginia Tech, which ran helmets through a consumer reports type of product testing focusing on the rate of incidents of injury, resulted in the release of a new ranking system. That system ranks helmets for safety on the basis of 1 to 5 with 5 being the best.

The results of the WGRZ survey found some of the helmets in the Albion High inventory were among the lowest rated which brought a WGRZ crew out to visit with Albion officials this past week.

“When that list was compiled we did have some of the low rated helmets but those are gone now and have been replaced by top rated helmets,” said Albion varsity Coach Gary Parisi. “Our superintendent got that fixed quickly. Our players are going to have the best concussion rated helmets we can get. We’re going to protect our kids when it comes to athletics and academics.”

In all the district replaced some 90 helmets which did not meet the standards as set by the new Virginia Tech study out of its total inventory of 180.

“We already had a concussion protocol as well as pre concussion and post concussion testing in place so when we learned of this study, which provided us with new information on helmet ratings, we went out and replaced any of the helmets that rated poorly,” said Superintendent Michael Bonnewell. “We have two tasks. The first is to keep the kids safe and the second is to give them a good education and replacing the helmets in order to decrease the possibility of injury is certainly an important part of the first task.”

Bonnewell added that the WGRZ reporter took note of the cost to replace the low rated helmets which at some $200 per helmet totals some $18,000. “I told him it’s not a big expense when I’m protecting kids. Everyone realizes that no helmet can prevent all injuries but a helmet lasts eight years so that is $25 a year which is a pretty inexpensive insurance policy to better protect our players and reduce the likelihood a kid will be injured.”

The WRGZ story on the helmet survey is airing on this evening’s newscasts.