Newton County upgrades helmets based on STAR rating

COVINGTON — The Summation of Tests for Analysis of Risk (STAR) ratings study done by the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences schools hit home as the Newton County Board of Education recently bought 380 helmets replacing some of the lower ranked helmets.

The study, which first came out three years ago, measures the impacts, force of gravity and potential damage to the player. The amount of force it takes to give a players a concussion is not the same for every person but the new Riddell Revolution Speed helmets should give each player the best protection possible.

“We wanted to make sure that our student-athletes had the highest ranked helmets at the time in the rating system,” Darren Berry, Newton County student services supervisor said. “I know that any and all studies have flaws and validity issues, but this is one that was available to us that indicated that there was a distinguishable difference between the quality of helmets. The superintendent made the decision to replace our lower ranked helmets with the higher ranked ones.”

The county will replace the lowest ranked helmets at all of the high school and middle schools at a cost of $66,000.

The county decided to go through a purchasing co-op for the purchase of the new helmets rather than allow each head coach to buy them on their own. Riddell provided the best 5-star helmet for the lowest cost to the co-op.

“The helmets were bought with the money generated through school activities,” Berry said. “These helmets weren’t bought with tax money but through gate and athletic participation fee’s that we require the schools to send to the county office for things like that.”

Even though the head coaches may have preferred one style or manufacture over another based on preference, none of them were opposed to the helmet.

“We asked the coaches if these would be satisfactory for them and they agreed,” Berry said.

While the old helmets did not rank as high based on the new study, Berry points out that they were the best helmets based on the information that was available at the time they were purchased.

In order to make sure the old helmets were safe every year, each school sent their helmets out after every season before they wore them again for spring and summer workouts where they were x-rayed and examined for cracks and other imperfections based on NOCSAE (National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment) standards. Those helmets that were deemed safe to use were repainted while those that did not fall under NOCSAE standards were taken out of rotation.

“We continually use the reconditioning process with these helmets and each one was certified by the NOCSAE. This ranking system was not based on helmets that had been used,” Berry said. “We reacted to this new rating system, as any other school system, because it went a step further to identify helmets that may be a little bit safer. We decided to err on the side of caution. If we’re going to equip our kids, we’re going to equip them with the best things based on the information available with us.”

Since the Board of Education decided not to use the lower-rated helmets anymore, they are going to make sure that no one else uses them either which is why they are not going to be sold or donated to the recreation department. Unfortunately, they will not allow the school’s to destroy them where they can be sold as wall plagues, clocks or lamps as a fundraiser.

“If we decided we no longer wanted to use these helmets based on this study then we’re not going to pass them off to anyone else through sale or donation,” Berry said. “That’s government property, they’re surplussed through our surplus department. There’s a policy for that and we’re following that procedure.”