New helmet developed in Indiana could better protect kids against concussions

Indianapolis

A new football helmet, made right here in Central Indiana, could soon change the way youth football players are protected on the field.

Despite rule changes and even state laws designed to protect against concussions in football, experts say children are being neglected by helmet standards geared toward adults.

Bill Simpson, a safety pioneer in motorsports who ran two successful racing helmet companies, is now working on a solution for youth football players.

"I'm starting off with it being way better than anything that's on the market and I know that," Simpson said.

Simpson invited Fox59 News inside his warehouse to see the new prototype and to put it to the test.

"I'm a little nervous because you're photographing this and that's not ever been done before in my test lab," Simpson said.

Simpson made the transition into designing football helmets last year, when he began tackling the issue with NFL player Austin Collie. Simpson was trying to develop a helmet that would help Collie minimize the kind of hits that had previously sidelined him with concussions.

He came up with a solution that was much lighter than traditional helmets, thanks to the use of high tech materials, many which he couldn’t disclose due to pending patents.

Collie has never suffered a concussion in Simpson’s helmet. He stopped wearing it late last season, and then suffered another concussion with a different helmet during the 2012 preseason.

“I feel bad for him,” Simpson said. “But that was his choice.”

Simpson still has several NFL clients, but this season, he focused on mass producing his adult helmet for all levels of football players. He and his business partner, race team owner Chip Ganassi, are now beginning to fill orders for next season.

"There's no differentiation for me from the megastar that's playing NFL football versus the little kid that's playing in Pop Warner," Simpson said.

There are an estimated 3.5 million children playing in youth leagues, but local league officials said that number has been declining due to head injuries.

"Concussions were something that surprised us," said Becky Brooks, who has two young boys who play football. "Both of our boys had concussions in the same year, a few months apart last year."

"We get more questions now on a daily basis than we ever have concerning concussions," Aaron Hohlt said, the president of Center Grove Bantam Football. "We think football is under attack right now."

Brooks said she spoke to their family doctor and educated herself before allowing her sons back on the field. She also paid extra to buy a special helmet.

"A helmet is their best protection for their head and their brain,” Brooks said.

There's just one big problem...

"To my knowledge there's not a well-fitting, well-designed helmet for young kids that play football,” said Dr. Steve Olvey, Associated Professor of Neurology at the University of Miami.

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