Defectively Designed Football Helmet Causes Teenager to Suffer Brain Damage


This case involves an allegedly defective football helmet. The plaintiff was engaged in a pre-season high school football practice drill called the “machine gun” or “flipper drill.” In this drill, one defensive player was squared off against a line of offensive players charging at the defensive player. The plaintiff was the defensive player and had to ward off and defeat the offensive players charging at him. The offensive players ran one after another into the plaintiff. The plaintiff took several hits where the offensive players contacted him with their helmets. The plaintiff took several blows in the head from contact between his helmet and the helmets of the offensive players. The plaintiff began to complain of dizziness, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. The plaintiff suffered a loss of his balance later that day. The plaintiff was taken to a hospital where he was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma. This is a life-threatening accumulation of blood on the brain’s surface near the skull. The plaintiff suffered severe brain damage and cannot live without assistance.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Is a football helmet made with a urethane front pad unreasonably dangerous because it may not protect a player from severe head injuries?

Expert Witness Response

Brain trauma is very common in the game of football, even though players wear helmets. Most brain injuries result from high-impact hits that players take during the game, including hits that can cause the brain to crash into the inside of the skull. The typical football helmet is designed to protect the part of a player’s head that is directly covered by the helmet from direct, linear impact. The front pad of a football helmet protects the player against damage to the face and damage to the skull which can occur when one player uses his helmet to hit another player in the head. Some football helmets have front pads which are made of urethane. These types of helmets have been shown to be ineffective in protecting football players from direct hits because the material does not properly reduce energy increases when its temperature increases. This may lead to brain injuries when a player has a direct impact with another player. The material vinyl nitrate has been shown to be much safer than urethane in preventing brain injuries when it is used in the front pads of football helmets. Vinyl nitrate has been shown to be better at absorbing the force or impact from a direct hit that a player may take and is generally considered much safer material than urethane padding in a football helmet.

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