Jan 29, 2015
Simple Tool, Important Job

When it comes to removing face masks from injured football players, a cordless power screwdriver is usually the best option, according to a group of New Hampshire researchers.

Led by Erik Swartz, PhD, ATC, Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of New Hampshire, the researchers reported that a screwdriver removed a variety of face masks in less time and with less movement than specialized cutting tools.

Swartz’s study had 19 certified athletic trainers remove masks from a variety of helmets using cutters and screwdrivers. Trials were timed and taped with a six-camera motion analysis system, which allowed measurement of helmet movement during the removal process. The athletic trainers were also asked to report their perceived exertion in removing the face mask.

Regardless of the helmet, mask, and loop strap combination, the screwdriver was the quickest tool, working as much as three times quicker than the two cutting tools. It also produced the smallest amount of helmet movement and was the easiest to use.

However, Swartz recommended that athletic trainers have a backup cutting device available. In the study, loop straps and helmet hardware (screws, T-nuts, and washers) were replaced after each removal. In the real world, screws may fail after being exposed to use and weathering, in which case cutters must be used to remove the face mask.

The study was published in the August edition of the American Journal of Sports Medicine, which can be accessed at: ajs.sagepub.com.

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