It's counterintuitive, and ironic, but the fact remains that safety improvements of all kinds can have the unintended effect of making people more reckless, thus offsetting benefits gained and making the risk of injury greater.
When automobile manufacturers make cars safer, drivers may drive worse. When food processors improve preservation and packaging, in-home cooks may get careless about handling and preparation. When sports companies introduce more effective pads and guards, athletes may play rougher.
Helmets and pads protecting the heads and shoulders of football players may tempt them to slam into their rivals even harder.
One must distinguish between the creator of a safety product and the purchaser’s use of it.
As a timeline on its website attests, Riddell has been “a premier designer and developer of protective sports equipment and a recognized leader in helmet technology and innovation” for decades. The company is “the leading manufacturer of football helmets.”
Company founder John T. Riddell was a high school football coach in Evanston, Ill. when he invented the removable football cleat in 1922. He launched his company seven years later with an innovative line of football shoes. In 1939, he introduced the first plastic helmet, in 1940 the first chinstrap, and soon after the first plastic suspension helmet.
In the 1950s, the company introduced the first plastic bar guard, in the 1960s the first helmet with aero-cells and the first micro-fit helmet.
In more recent times, the Riddell Revolution Football Helmet made its debut: “the first major innovation in football helmets in 25 years” and “the first helmet designed with the intent of reducing the risk of concussion.”
Early last December, the Midwestern Midget Football Club filed suit against Riddell, alleging that the Revolution helmets the league had purchased did not reduce the risk of concussion as much as claimed.
Instead of attacking a leader in sports safety, league officials should examine their own practices, as should parents of players.