(CBS) – There are startling safety concerns about youth football helmets. Local kids are being forced to wear poorly rated, 10-year-old helmets with outdated designs.
2 Investigator Dave Savini took helmets belonging to a middle-school player and had them tested at a Virginia lab. The outcome raises concerns for many young players.
The lab, at Virginia Tech, is exposing safety gaps on football fields across the country. More than 2 million children play football in youth leagues or at middle schools. They can suffer from serious helmet-to-helmet blows, and protection can be critical.
The 2 Investigators found serious deficiencies in some of the helmets provided.
RG Javorek coaches a private youth football league. His 13-year-old son, Joe, plays in the league and for Naperville’s Madison Junior High School team.
Javorek, and his wife, Kim, want to make sure their son has the best helmet available.
“It is the most critical piece of equipment you can put on a football player — period,” RG Javorek says.
One school helmet, a 2006 Schutt Youth Air Advantage, concerned Javorek.
“How can this football helmet be allowed on the football field? It’s amazing to me,” he says.
So, the family bought a new 2013 Riddell Speed Youth, but school officials would not allow him to use it.
“I think that’s ridiculous,” Kim Javorek says.
CBS 2 took both helmets to be tested by Dr. Stefan Duma, who runs Virginia Tech’s Helmet Testing Lab, home of the five-star rating system. They currently do not rate youth helmets, but Duma says each youth model is essentially equivalent to the adult version.
The adult-model Schutt Air Advantage received only two stars, and the test Duma conducted of the school’s youth version also tested poorly, at the two-star level.
“You would have 10 times the risk with the lower-performing helmet,” says Duma, explaining the player would have a ten-times-greater risk of getting a concussion. “I think it’s very significant.”
The 2 Investigators found 188 of these Schutt Youth Air Advantage helmets in Naperville’s District 203, along with 26 Adams helmets. It is the lowest-rated helmet with zero stars.
CBS 2 found the same low-rated helmets at high schools, too, including Chicago’s Farragut, Lane Tech, Austin Polytech and Marshall.
“There is no reason people should be playing with these,” Duma says.
The Javoreks have now pulled their son from the junior high school team.
RG Javorek told his son: “I love you, and I know that you could possibly be put into harm’s way by wearing this helmet.”
Naperville School District 203 and Chicago Public Schools say their helmets meet safety standards and safety is their No. 1 priority.
Dr. Duma says when Virginia Tech began rating helmets in 2011, only one received five stars; now there are 11.
Duma says athletes should be allowed to use their own top-rated helmets. Adlai E. Stevenson High School is one school that does that.
To check how Virginia Tech rated a helmet, click here.
The helmet companies mentioned in this report all say they have much newer designs but they can’t make schools buy them.