Most studies on football helmet performance focus on lowering head acceleration-related parameters to reduce concussions. This has resulted in an increase in helmet size and mass. The objective of this paper was to study the effect of helmet mass on head and upper neck responses. Two independent test series were conducted. In test series one, 90 pendulum impact tests were conducted with four different headform and helmet conditions: unhelmeted Hybrid III headform, Hybrid III headform with a football helmet shell, Hybrid III headform with helmet shell and facemask, and Hybrid III headform with the helmet and facemask with mass added to the shell (n = 90). The Hybrid III neck was used for all the conditions. For all the configurations combined, the shell only, shell and facemask, and weighted helmet conditions resulted in 36%, 43%, and 44% lower resultant head accelerations (p < 0.0001), respectively, when compared to the unhelmeted condition. Head delta-V reductions were 1.1%, 4.5%, and 4.4%, respectively. In contrast, the helmeted conditions resulted in 26%, 41%, and 49% higher resultant neck forces (p < 0.0001), respectively. The increased neck forces were dominated by neck tension. In test series two, testing was conducted with a pneumatic linear impactor (n = 178). Fourteen different helmet makes and models illustrate the same trend. The increased neck forces provide a possible explanation as to why there has not been a corresponding reduction in concussion rates despite improvements in helmets ability to reduce head accelerations.

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