Concussion helmet is 'future of safety in football'

Cary Ashby • Oct 9, 2017 at 8:24 PM

MONROEVILLE — Hunter Kamann’s family believe the future of safety in football is in the special concussion helmet he has been wearing this season.

The Monroeville High School senior is the first-ever recipient of the VICIS Foundation scholarship, the $1,500 helmet itself.

“That means the world,” he said. “It’s still settling in.”

Kamann received the helmet — complete with the Eagles logo — in August.

“It truly is amazing. We believe this is the future of safety in football,” said his mother, Mindy, on Facebook.

Padding in the helmet fits around the young man’s entire head.

“It’s 100 times more comfortable,” said Hunter’s father, Jason, comparing the helmet to standard ones. “It’s form fitting. … It indents upon impact. He received it after two-a-days were over; he’s had it all season.”

Hunter, in describing the helmet, said there is no pressure on his forehead, and while it takes one to two weeks to get accustomed to the headaches with standard helmets, that wasn’t the case with the new one.

“As soon you put it on, you were ready,” the teenager said.

Ultimately, the offensive guard-turned kicker said he hopes “my story will help others so nobody has to go through what I went through.”

Bryan Gibbs, a VICIS representative, said “while the VICIS ZERO1 (helmet) has been shown to significantly reduce impact forces in certain locations, VICIS does not make any claims regarding a reduction in concussion occurrence or severity.”

Concussion symptoms

The story started with the son of Jason and Mindy Kamann suffering a concussion his freshman year.

“He was playing offensive line,” Jason told the Reflector. “Basically he was out his freshman year. … The symptoms held him out until last year.

“He was released to play basketball (his freshman year). Early in his basketball season, he collided heads with another kid,” the father said.

Hunter was determined to be a part of the Eagles football team. His parents said their son attended practices and scrimmages, participated in weightlifting and stood on the sidelines at games — knowing he didn’t have a chance to see the field.

Because of his concussion, Hunter said he was told “if I want to play football at all, I would have to learn to kick. My immediate reaction was, ‘Let’s do it.’”

“He came to me and said, ‘I want to be part of the team. I don’t know what I can do,’” said his father, who was Monroeville’s kicker and quarterback in 1996. “I kicked my last year in school.”

So the father and son started working on turning Hunter from an offensive lineman into a kicker. The teenager first kicked a football in May 2016.

“And it was not good,” his father said. “I told him, ‘I don’t think this is for you.’ I learned more from him than he’s learned from me.”

Learning to be an extra-point kicker continues to be a learning process.

“He might be at 50 percent this year,” Jason said.

His son estimated it took about six months before he got the hang of kicking extra points.

“I would rate myself a capable kicker, but with plenty of room for improvement,” Hunter said.


‘Worth a shot’

A family friend showed Jason a Facebook video about a new concussion-related helmet being used in college and the NFL.

“It's like nothing we've ever seen before. It has new technology developed by some of the world’s leading engineers and neurosurgeons. It truly is amazing. It reduces the risk of concussion by something like 76 percent,” Mindy said on Facebook. “There's an awesome video that shows a crash-type test between a normal helmet and theirs and it was shocking.

“Jason showed (the video) to me and asked if this was something we thought may actually give Hunter a shot at playing his senior year,” she added.

Jason emailed the VICIS Foundation and shared his son’s story. 

“We thought, ‘What the heck. It's worth a shot. I don't know if they'll even read it, but …,’” Mindy said.

About 3 1/2 hours after Jason sent the email, the Kamanns received a response from foundation president Lisa Ertz, the mother of Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz.

“(She was) saying that his email brought her to tears and she wanted to talk to us. She had read our email to the board and they had already decided that Hunter was getting a helmet,” Mindy said.

“We were speechless. Here's a kid who isn't a college prospect, doesn't attend a D-1 high school and he's being blessed with an amazing gift. Later we found out that Zach Ertz actually bought the helmet for Hunter.”

The Kamann family were invited to the recent VICIS Foundation kick-off fundraising event. It was held at retired Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski’s country club in New Jersey. Hunter answered questions and spoke to people who had invested in the special helmet.

“We were able to meet Lisa and Zach face to face to thank them for his helmet,” his mother said.

“He’s the first recipient of the foundation’s scholarship. The scholarship is the helmet,” her husband added.


What’s next

Ben Paul, Monroeville director of student activities, said the helmet gives the Kamann family “peace of mind” about Hunter’s safety and provides him an opportunity he wouldn’t have had otherwise.

“I think this is great for Hunter,” added Paul, saying it’s “beyond generous” for the foundation to give him the helmet.

As an athletic director, Paul said safety is a priority and it’s important to provide student-athletes with the best equipment possible. He also said if this specific helmet is successful, the school would do more research about it, but he noted there’s no conclusive research that upgraded helmets will prevent concussions.

“There is no sport that has no risk,” Paul added. “We’re going to put our kids in the safest equipment we can.”

Hunter’s mother said she believes it’s such “an awesome thing for our little school district to have something like this in their program.” Having met a single mother of four sons — one one whom had concussion issues, she said she wants to be “a voice for the mother who is scared to let her kid play because of the worry.”

“Although no helmet can completely eliminate a concussion, I would say (a) 76-percent reduction is pretty good and it would certainly give me some peace of mind watching from the stands,” she said.

The Kamanns continue to receive feedback and questions about their son’s helmet.

“We have so many people contacting me about this helmet,” Jason said. “It’s definitely going to make the game safer.”

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