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Junior Bulldogs: Investing in a concussion-free future

Bedford’s Junior Bulldogs youth football program has plans to bring in top-of-the-line equipment for its participants in the fall. Junior Bulldogs equipment managers have their sights set on new Riddell 360 helmets for 200 players – an approximate $40,000 purchase – in hopes of improving safety.

The move was inspired by recent research and events regarding concussions, said Steve Krasinski, who was the program’s equipment manager for four years.

“Concussions are always near and dear to my heart, as a player, as a coach and now as a father of a football player,” he said. “Hearing news about concussions and technology, and being equipment manager, I had to read a lot of the articles, pay a little more attention than the average parent or coach, and started to learn about some new technology that Riddell had come out with.”

Krasinski, now an assistant to current equipment manager Bill Kramer, said new technology in the Riddell 360 makes it a worthwhile investment. The helmet has two innovative features that reduce the potential for concussions.

One feature is a new pad lining on the inside of the helmet. The other is a change in the way the facemask is fastened to the rest of the helmet.

“Instead of absorbing the energy and creating foam inside the helmet to absorb the energy, they’re creating technology now to push the energy back out,” Kramer said. “They don’t attach it above the visor of the helmet, they attach it on the sides.”

Aside from being entrusted with the safety of other parents’ children, both Kramer and Krasinski have sons who play for the Junior Bulldogs.

“Could my son suffer and is he likely to have a concussion now with the speed of the game increasing, kids getting bigger, stronger, faster?” Krasinski said. “As a parent, I would want to do anything I could to make sure my son is able to still play the games and have physical activities.”

A looming dilemma for all parents is whether the risks of football outweigh the benefits. While the threat of concussions isn’t eliminated, the Riddell 360 helmet was found to reduce that risk in a Virginia Tech study which rates helmets.

“When we started doing research into concussion prevention technology, we came to the conclusion that this sort of investment, while big up front, is necessary for the safety of our children,” Kramer said. “Without the purchase, I’d have reservations about letting my boys play. When we first moved to Bedford four years, I was a little surprised to see the youth program allow full contact and full pads, at ages 6 and 7, in particular.”

But Kramer allows his two sons to play for the Junior Bulldogs. He said the sport teaches structure and discipline, among other skills, and with the added attention head safety is getting, and the purchase of the Riddell 360s, he is more comfortable letting his children play.

Still, “as important as those life lessons are to me,” he said, “what’s more important is the safety of my children.”

Krasinski said part of the cost for each helmet – which retails for $319, but is cut to a wholesale $200 through a vendor – is built in to the league registration fee. The Junior Bulldogs are organizing fundraisers to reach their goal of raising the money in time for the fall 2013 season. The Riddell 360 will be on display at the Junior Bulldogs’ 2013 kick-off on March 12, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the McKelvie School cafeteria.

“Two hundred dollars to invest in my children’s head is a no-brainer,” said Krasinski. “With this technology and not to invest in it, it would be unsettling as a parent, that knowing there was a better helmet on the market for my children’s safety, and because of costs we’re not going to go there. I can’t think of a better way to spend money. I would rather forego a small vacation.”

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