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From one-star to five-star
How Newton County replinished its helmet inventory and made football safer
The GHSA will permit the use of helmets during football practice next week for the first time this summer. - File Photo | The Covington News

Back in the spring, a Virginia Tech study on football helmets’ ability to prevent concussions – that ranked helmets from a one-star helmet to a five-star helmet with five being the best – lit a fire under the Newton County Board of Education influencing them to get new helmets for all Newton County middle and high schools. So they did.

“The county saw the test and the results. They wanted to make sure that our kids had the top quality helmets so we were fortunate enough that they were able to purchase everybody in the county – not just us but Alcovy, Newton and the middle schools – brand new helmets,” Eastside head football coach Rick Hurst said. “It was a big plus for us, the county bought 78 for us. We went ahead and bought 25 or so just to get us up to our numbers where we need to be.”

Hurst said that the new helmets fit really well, they’re comfortable and the kids love them. According to Hurst each helmet costs upwards of $275, but they got a good deal on them at about $175 per helmet.

The study found that Alcovy, Eastside and Newton had some helmets that were a three-star or less. However, Newton was the most-fit of the three schools at the time, as 42 percent of their inventory was made up of five-star helmets.

“We knew the helmet situation was coming. The study that Virginia Tech put out kind of advanced everything,” Banks said. “What we noticed is we still had about 45 helmets that were not five and four-star helmets. Helmets are expensive. We’re looking at the five and four-star Riddells the speeds and the 360s being at least $300 per helmet, and we took those three-stars out of our inventory, every helmet we have is either a four or five-star. Every helmet the county purchased is a five-star. We do have a few four-stars that we purchased, but 100 percent of our kids are in four or five-star helmets.”

The Rams now have 45 new helmets, which combined with the helmets they had that were already deemed suitable with a four or five-star rating equal a total of 125 helmets.

The new helmets are set to help prevent concussions better than the lower ranked helmets that have now been removed from all three schools’ inventory.

At Alcovy, head coach Kirk Hoffman said that the booster club and the BOE bought new helmets to replenish the three-star helmets they had. According to Hoffman, they were already going to roll out new helmets next year, so they went ahead and re-did their entire inventory.

Eastside did much of the same as they no longer have a helmet rated less than a five-star, according to Hurst.

“That’s all we ordered, that’s all we have in our inventory and that’s all we’ll ever have now,” Hurst said. “Riddell was very good about giving us a break, they gave us a great price county-wide on the helmets, plus we don’t have to pay for reconditioning next year which is a good thing. It’s gonna save a lot of money for each school in the long run.”

Even with the new helmets, concussions are still possible, but they give student-athletes a greater chance of not getting a concussion and that’s important to everybody.

“The thing of it is, no helmet is concussion proof,” Hurst said. “You might see a few less concussions, but I think it’s the speed of the game, the strength of the kids and that’s what’s contributing to the concussion factor. Just like it is at every level. When you’ve got 250-pound guys running 4.5, running into each other, something’s gotta give, it’s physics.”