Update: After investigation, NLR upgrades helmets

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- It's been five months since THV11 first surveyed football helmets at 27 local high schools. Our analysis found North Little Rock was using some low-ranking helmets that could put students at greater risk of concussions.

Yes, its summer break, but every week day morning from 6 to 8 you'll find 123 North Little Rock High School football players training.

"Friday nights it pays off. You know we win a lot," says 17-year-old Jaelon Scott. "My uncle got me in little league when I was like 7."

Scott is now the captain of the Charging Wildcats.

"You have to help the other teammates up when they are down."

As for avoiding concussions, assistant coach Blake Pizan says teaching proper training is a top priority.

"When a kid gets dinged for you, they're out."

In February, THV11 discovered the district was equipping some of their players with helmets considered among the worst. The safety findings were based off a Virginia Tech study which measured the impact absorbed by each helmet.

Nineteen of the Wildcats' helmets earned low ratings, which researchers say could put players at a higher risk of a head injury.

Athletic Director Gary Davis promised change.

PREVIOUS STORY: Arkansas high school's helmet safety ratings (http://on.kthv.com/1fswPtp)

"We will do all we can, within reason, to make sure our students and our student athletes are best equipped," said Davis in February.

So, with a new football season just weeks away, THV11 showed up unannounced to follow up.

Assistant Coach Pizan showed us those 19 helmets. They're boxed up and are clearly not being used.

"We are trying to develop young men for the future, for college and their whole entire life. So doing something we can do as coaches to protect them. That is what it is all about," he says.

On average, the district purchases 10 new helmets a year. This year, they've ordered 40 along with 30 concussion sensors. The total cost was just over $16,000. The new inventory will here in less than two weeks.

**Note: The database does not reflect the new helmets that have been ordered**

Davis adds, "The Virginia Tech study just kind of opened our eyes. Each year things get better. It's like what was good for your iPhone today, 6 months ago is obsolete."

And for players like Austin Blair, "I have been playing since middle school, since 7th grade."

While he's never had a head injury, the offensive tackle knows it's possible, so staying concussion free is critical for his future.

"I plan to play football at University of Louisiana Monroe, and after that, there's no telling.

Their first game of the season is September 4. Yes, winning and bonding as a team is a priority. But players understand that rallying for their health comes first.

"We don't want to mess with another kid's brain. Let's face it. We're worried about life. Football is just a game."

Questions Parents Should Ask:

1. What is the star rating for my child's helmet? To use the 5 star ratings by Virginia Tech, you'll need to know the make and model helmet. Hopefully our online database can help with that. However, if your school is not on the list, you can contact the athletic director. You can also print the star system and keep it handy if you need to look up a certain helmet.

2. How old is my child's helmet? No helmet older than 10 years should be on a high school football field. That's the law.

3. How often does my child's school re-condition the helmets in the inventory? Most schools try to do it once a year or every other year. But, it's important to know because damaged helmets don't always provide the same protection.


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