Helmet testing enters limbo 

May, 25, 2010

Last December, doctors running a little-known but important NFL initiative called the Helmet Concussion Assessment Program (HCAP) delivered the first round of their research to equipment makers. Their goal was to give data on helmets to players and equipment managers in time for this spring's fittings and helmet purchases for the upcoming season. But their statistical analysis was so flawed and their findings so bizarre that one helmet manufacturer pulled out of the league's ongoing study, while independent experts worried the results could be dangerous, as I reported in February. Now Congress is questioning the league's helmet research, too.

"Is anyone on this panel qualified to talk about the construction of, testing and approval of helmets for the NFL?" Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) asked yesterday, when the House Judiciary Committee held another round of field hearings on concussions, this time at the U.S. Customs House in Manhattan. The witnesses in front of Weiner included Hunt Batjer, chair of neurological surgery at Northwestern Medical School, and Richard Ellenbogen, director of neurological surgery at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. The two are the new co-chairmen of the NFL's concussions committee. Also present was Thom Mayer, medical director of the National Football League Players Association. But nobody offered any response.

Peter Keating

ESPN Senior Writer
Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. His column, The Numbers, appears in every issue.