Columbia, SC (WLTX) – More Midlands schools are taking potentially unsafe helmets out of their equipment inventory.
Back in May, a News 19 investigation discovered that Midlands high school football players were using close to 300 unsafe and outdated helmets. Doctors at Virginia Tech tested all of the helmets used by teams in our area and and ranked them, with five stars being the best and one star being the worst.
The discovery made us want to look into the types of helmets middle school students are using.
"Once you have one, you are more likely to have another one in your lifetime," said University of South Carolina Athletic Trainer Miranda Jensen.
A helmet is the player's defense against a concussion or even worse--a traumatic brain injury.
"When you look at the acceleration data for comparative tests, the differences are dramatic," said Dr. Stefan Duma with Virginia Tech.
News19 filed requests for the type of football helmets used at Midlands middle schools. We found several schools were using five and four star helmets.
To create its ranking, Dr. Duma says Virginia Tech engineers performed 120 tests on each helmet.
"There was no way for consumers to find out which helmets were better, it was purely what it looks like what it costs and what the sales rep tells me, so we were the first group to present independent biomechanical data," said Duma.
In Richland District One, we discovered that Heyward Gibbes used 38 Riddell VSR4 helmets.
Those helmets received a one star and have been discontinued.
Alcorn Middle School had 20 Schutt Air Advantage Helmets in their inventory those are rated as a two star.
"Obviously safety is of the upmost importance in Richland One," said Karen York with Richland One.
After hearing the findings from our investigation, district spokesperson Karen York says they have immediately removed the helmets from both schools.
"When the students began football practice they will be in the highest rated helmets, the 5 star rated helmets, for both the high school and middle schools," said York.
Over in Richland Lexington District Five, their eligible middle school students play on the "C" team at their zoned high schools, meaning they use helmets from Dutch Fork and Chapin High Schools.
They also had close to 40 Schutt Air Advantage helmets; those helmets were also removed after our investigation.
Whitmire Community School in Newberry County had several 2 star helmets. After our investigation the district has removed those helmets.
In Lexington County School District One, Carolina Springs Middle and White Knoll Middle had a combined 25 Riddell VSR4 helmets. Pelion Middle School also had one Schutt Air Advantage Helmet.
Mary Beth Hill, district spokesperson for Lexington One tells us, "Those unsafe helmets will be immediately pull from the three schools."
"It's important to see what's going on at the youth level because these kids get hit," said Jim Mensch with USC.
Mensch works with the University of South Carolina Athletic Trainers and he says the study has educated a lot of schools about how the helmet can protect students.
He also says there needs to be more education on recognizing the signs of a concussion.
"It's important for the parents, the coaches, the kids to know the symptoms of a concussion. To know when they've experienced a concussion and that having a headache at the end of the day after practice isn't normal."
"I think your story brought to light the study about the helmets and their low ratings and it helped increase the urgency in addressing those needs," said York.
If you want to see where your child's school measures up against the Virginia Tech study, take a look at the attached file. (For mobile users, paste this link into your browser http://archive.wltx.com/assetpool/documents/140902060120_middle-school-helmet-study.pdf )