CHICAGO — One of the nation’s largest football equipment manufacturers is testing new helmet designs, as the Illinois company and its competitors try to create a safer helmet.

Riddell is filtering resources into research and development to test the limits of helmets’ protective capabilities, the Chicago Tribune reported. Other sports equipment companies, including Schutt and Vicis, have joined the effort.

Scientific evidence shows a connection between concussions and other less-severe head injuries in football players to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. The degenerative brain disease, which has symptoms that include memory loss, depression and dementia, is caused by repeated blows to the head.

In a recent case, former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who died by suicide in April while serving a life sentence for murder, had been diagnosed with severe CTE. He was 27.

Neurosurgeon Robert Cantu, co-founder of Boston University’s CTE Center, said helmet manufacturers are making strides, but he advocates more for aggressive rule changes, like eliminating hits to the head.

“I don’t think helmets are going to be the ultimate solution,” Cantu said. “To the extent they get better, that’s all good, but I don’t think they are going to solve the problem.”

Cantu said research shows children shouldn’t play tackle football until high school to reduce risks.

Since 2002, the NFL has implemented dozens of rule changes, aiming to reduce the risk of injuries, especially to the head and neck. Some of those changes include prohibiting a runner or tackler from initiating contact against an opponent with the top, or crown, of his helmet.


Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com