Drills without helmets may reduce head impacts in football

“I played rugby for a number of years and we don’t wear helmets, of course, in rugby,” Swartz told Reuters Health by phone. “So you don’t lead with your head.”

Football players who are used to doing everything with their helmets on may feel they are protected, and be more comfortable leading with their heads when tackling, he said. Taking away the helmets even briefly could take away that false sense of security…

Swartz and his coauthors divided 50 NCAA Division 1 football players at the University of New Hampshire into two groups. Half did five-minute tackling drills without their helmets and shoulder pads as part of the Helmetless Tackling Training (HuTT) program twice a week during preseason practices and once a week during the three month season.

The other 25 players continued with noncontact drills and their usual routine, as reported in the Journal of Athletic Training.

Head impact sensors on the skin and helmets of the players showed that those who did the helmetless drills had 30 percent fewer head impacts per practice and game than the comparison group.