ARLINGTON, Va. (WUSA9) - In a first of its kind move among area schools, Arlington high schools are changing out every football helmet in their inventory for helmets rated highest for reducing concussion risk by a university study.
See our investigation on football helmets at other area schools: http://on.wusa9.com/1ndCXM9
"I think it's very great," said Washington-Lee football player Jose Perdomo "I think this helmet is a lot better than last year's.'"
The move is a significant change from the helmets Arlington Public Schools reported in their inventory during a WUSA9 investigation in May. Last season at Washington-Lee, Wakefield, and Yorktown High Schools, district inventories reviewed by WUSA9 identified helmets rated as low as two on a five-point scale for safety.
"The helmets are going to add a component of safety because of the fit," said Washington-Lee Head Coach Josh Shapiro. "They've been shown to be able to withstand a season and take contact and make them game safer for the players."
Experts at Virginia Tech agree.
Virginia Tech developed the five star rating - given to the Riddell Revolution Speed helmets purchased by Arlington Public Schools - to identify helmets that best reduce concussion risk.
Although our May review found no zero star helmets in area schools, we did find one star helmets and documents WUSA9 obtained showed Arlington County's helmet inventory with a mix of models ranging from two star rated helmets to five.
Coach Shapiro says the lower rated helmets just don't conform as well to player heads.
"Before we would take a tape measure and measure and then you were within a couple of inches and then you would make adjustments with the jaw pads," Shapiro said. "This helmet has inflatable air pockets within the helmet."
Coach Josh Shapiro credits the Arlington County Schools for being progressive in the five star helmet mandate and a new system-wide concussion management plan.
Although those five-star rated helmets can cost over $200 each, Arlington retired every lower rated helmet in the program with a new five star replacement.
"Freshman year, I had a lower star helmet, I think it was a two or three, and I was actually very scared I was going to get a concussion," said Washington-Lee football player Bled Aliu. "They pump air in it…and it makes it tighter, so it's not as loose and when you get hit the helmet doesn't move around."
The helmets in Arlington's previous inventory met national accreditation standards, as do all the helmets reviewed at area schools.
Some experts disagree with the Virginia Tech ratings and everyone agrees there is no helmet that can prevent all football head injuries.
Arlington County is the only district in the area reporting a change to use only the highest rated helmets at reducing injury risk to players.