McIntosh and McCory 2005 performed a literature review of head and neck injuries in the sports medicine literature. They surveyed rugby, ice hockey, American football, baseball, soccer, boxing, cricket, horse racing, skiing and snowboarding.
One of the major factors that can help prevent head injury was found to be the hardness of a surface. They cited Marshal et al, 2003 showing how when lighter and less dense materials are used in a baseball there was a 28% reduction in injury rates. Ground surfaces have also been found to play a role, Naunheim et al, 2002 reported that softer fields in Australian football lead to fewer concussions. They continue with the reviews by Thompson et al, 1999 and Levy et al, 2004 reporting how helmets can bring down concussion rates 74% and fatalities by 84% when implemented across the board for a sport like cycling or football. Ski helmets were also shown to decrease injury by 56%.
At this time, it is safe to say that helmets should generally be worn where possible and materials should be engineered so that they minimize the risk to the players and audience of a traumatic brain injury. As we’ve seen from our series on concussion and on neck injuries, these injuries happen far too frequently and can have consequences that change a player’s life.