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From The New York Times:
When a parent or youth-sports official decides which helmet will protect the head of a young football player, hard information ducks for cover.

All results from manufacturers’ laboratory testing are kept tightly confidential by industry agreement. The graphs and percentages that make it into marketing materials — and are often embellished by sales representatives — have become questionable enough that the Federal Trade Commission has been asked to investigate helmet companies for misleading safety claims.

An engineer at Virginia Tech, Stefan Duma, is working to pull back the curtain on the true performance properties of helmets. He is conducting tests and compiling an online database of results, through which one will be able to look up the protective qualities and star rating of every helmet model, much as one can for cars and child booster seats. But even people who applaud Duma’s intent fear that such information could still impede the confounding process of concussion protection.

Currently, new and refurbished football helmets for players of all ages and positions take the field with only one objective safety statement — they have passed the test required by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (Nocsae), which since 1973 has ensured only that helmets protect against the high-level forces that had fractured young skulls. Regarding concussions, Nocsae officials and many independent experts insist that the forces that cause that injury are not yet understood enough to develop a trustworthy safety standard.

Nocsae, a trade group staffed partly and financed largely by the helmet industry, forbids the dissemination of test data, contending that the numbers can imply safety properties that may not exist. Duma said that his approach, which will use no industry data but incorporate ideas from helmet manufacturers and other experts, would generate the most meaningful information to date.

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