Natasha Helmick spent six years playing soccer wearing a headband, believing the head gear would prolong her soccer career by preventing concussions. Helmick, 20, said that the headgear inflated her belief that she was safer on the field and she began to play more aggressively.
“I had extra confidence, man, that extra boost of confidence. I was ready to go. I went out there and played so much harder,” Helmick told Kate Snow in an interview airing Thursday at 10pm/9 c on NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams.
She chose a popular brand of head gear made by Full 90 Sports.
“The benefit of wearing our head gear is that it significantly reduces the impact forces reaching your head,” said Jeff Skeen, founder and CEO of Full 90 Sports.
Skeen said that he’s sold half a million of their headbands, which cover a two inch section of the head that includes the forehead and temples. Their F90 Premier Headguard costs up to $45 and promises soccer players they can “stay in the game” and reduce the probability of a concussion by over 50 percent.
Skeen, a former helmet manufacturer, devised the headband after his daughter suffered a concussion while playing soccer.
“I thought to myself, ‘Well, there’s a simple biomechanical solution to that and that is, put something soft in between the two hard objects that are going to hit each other. So I decided to make her just a padded headband,” Skeen told Snow.
Courtesy of the Helmick Family
For Helmick, the head guard gave her family confidence that she was being better protected from head injuries, but she suffered at least five concussions while wearing the headband. A star player in Texas, she was sidelined over a year ago. Leading concussion experts say that there is no convincing evidence that head gear prevents concussions.
“My problem with the headbands is that they’re primarily marketed as a concussion-reduction device. That is something that there is no proof that they are,” said Dr. Bob Cantu, a neurosurgeon and leading concussion researcher.
Cantu is one of a dozen leading concussion experts that told Rock Center that there is no convincing scientific evidence that wearing head gear on the soccer field prevents concussions. They said that it might prevent cuts and bruises.
Skeen, the maker of the Full 90 head gear, disputes those claims. He stands by his products and says that that two independent studies support his product.
At the request of Full 90 Sports, we spoke to a few doctors who say they recommend the headgear to their patients because they say it might disperse the forces to the head in a collision; but even those doctors agreed, there is no definite evidence that headgear reduces the risk of concussions in soccer.
Skeen says that he wishes there were more studies about the use of head gear to prevent concussions.
“I think they’re right, there is not enough evidence. I’d like there to be more evidence,” Skeen said. “And that’s what I want. I want indisputable evidence. ..I’m here to try to reduce injuries, not sell product.”