Oct 102002
 
Authors: Reed Saunders

Reza Zadeh’s dream was about to come true.

After waiting for more than two years to get his chance, the former CSU football player was finally called upon to start a Division-I game. But three days before the opening game of his senior season, disaster, as it had on so many occasions, struck.

Zadeh suffered a concussion from a blow to the head in practice – the sixth of his football career and the one that finally ended it.

“That one put me in the hospital and it was only after a year or so of memory rehab that I finally had full memory capacity,” said Zadeh, now an academic assistant with the team. “Now that I look back it seems like stupidity must have kept me going.”

Zadeh’s tale is becoming more and more common. In an age when head injuries in football are practically commonplace, a new scientifically designed helmet is aiming to reduce chances of concussions.

Chicago-based Riddell, one of the top athletic equipment suppliers in the nation, recently released the Revolution, a computer designed helmet that, according to Riddell, “marks the first significant structural change in a player’s headgear in nearly 25 years.”

The Revolution boasts more padding for side-impact hits and a lighter, titanium facemask. The helmet’s development comes following a four-year study by Biokinetics and Associates, an independent engineering firm based in Toronto.

The study, funded by Riddell and the National Football League, found that nearly 70 percent of all concussions occur from impacts to the side of the head.

“There hasn’t been any development in the last 20 years with regard to side impact deflection, and our new helmet really concentrates on that,” said Dave Baron, a key account manager for Riddell. “The study was tremendous.”

Concussions occur when the brain impacts with the inside of the skull. According to the Biokinetics study, roughly 100,000 concussions occur each year due to football.

Concussions were brought into the local limelight recently when former University of Colorado quarterback Craig Ochs left the team and the school after suffering his third concussion in two seasons.

The effects of Zadeh’s concussions weren’t limited to the football field.

“It got to the point where I was practically failing out of school – D’s and F’s – because the concussions just made it so hard to focus on schoolwork,” said Zadeh, who endured six concussions in his playing career. “It’s pretty much like you’re drunk. Your senses are off, you can’t balance and you just feel out of it.”

CSU equipment manager Will Rodecap doesn’t believe the

Revolution or any other helmet will ever solve the problem.

“There’s just no way to stop the brain from hitting the inside of the skull,” Rodecap said. “A knee wasn’t designed to play football, a shoulder wasn’t designed for football, neither was a head. It’s just the way the game is.”

Zadeh sees the problem much the same way.

“I don’t think any piece of equipment could have stopped me from getting the concussions,” Zadeh said. “At the speed football is played today, your brain is going to rattle no matter what’s around it.”

Baron acknowledges there is no cure-all for the problem, but is optimistic the Revolution can reduce the risk.

“There’s no guarantees and nothing’s foolproof, but we’re gaining on it,” Baron said. “There’s a lot of science behind this helmet. We’ve put in more padding not just in the sides, but all around the helmet in hopes of reducing and absorbing the energy of a heavy hit.”

Baron, who represents 12 NFL teams and nearly 40 Division-I college programs, said the helmet has caught on with major teams and institutions, such as the Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts and the University of Notre Dame.

And while the helmets may gain visibility in the NFL or college, Baron hopes the helmet has the most impact at the high school level.

“There’s more than a million kids playing football in the high school ranks and we’ve seen an increase in the number of concussions coming from that group,” Baron said. “Our hope is the helmet will reduce injury to the point it gains popularity and the kids will grow up with the Revolution as their helmet of choice.”

CSU quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt is one of three members of the Ram football team who wear the Revolution helmet.

“If they have a new technology claiming to reduce concussions, you might as well wear it because it can only help,” said Van Pelt, who has not had problems with concussions. “I’ve liked it so far. If it can prevent even one concussion, it’s worthwhile.”

– Edited by Jon Ackerman and Ben Koerselman

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