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I-Team: Boston Schools Fast-Track Plan To Purchase Safer Football Helmets

BOSTON (CBS) – Boston Public School officials are taking steps to better protect its high school football players after an investigation by the I-Team.

The district will order more than 300 new helmets to replace those deemed sub-standard by one highly regarded ranking.

No helmet is concussion proof, but engineers at Virginia Tech University have found some perform much better than others.  For the last several years, they have been ranking helmet models from zero to five stars.

"If you move from a one star helmet to some of the better four and five star helmets, you cut your concussion risk in half," said Stefan Duma, a professor who has spearheaded the effort.

Around the country, many football teams have used the rankings to determine whether they are best protecting their student athletes from brain injury.

Last season the I-Team surveyed local high schools.  We found most had top of the line helmets according to the Virginia Tech ratings.  Boston Public Schools was the notable exception. Nearly a quarter of BPS helmets were ranked 2 stars or below.  Boston Latin had the highest number of poorly rated helmets.

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Maria Shea, who has a son who plays football at Boston Latin School and another at East Boston High was shocked by the findings.

"I always want my son to be as safe as he possibly can so I was afraid," she told WBZ.

After our story, parents like Maria took action.  They requested that BPS give their kids safer equipment.  Some were even prepared to purchase helmets on their own to protect their children.

They will not have to.  BPS has now fast tracked the purchase of new helmets.  They had planned to buy them over the course of several years.  Now, instead of phasing subpar helmets out, they have gotten rid of all of them.

"We broke down our inventory based on the Virginia Tech model and we're going to take off any helmet that's ranked 2 star or below or unranked and anything that was purchased before 2008," said Athletic Directory Avery Esdaile.

The new helmets have better padding, a bigger shell and better construction.  They are highly rated on the Virginia Tech scale.

"This addresses them and puts us in the position where we know that all the helmets that are in the inventory and are going out are going to be of a quality that we're very comfortable with," Esdaile said, adding that safety is the top priority.

The news was a relief to Maria Shea.  She says she is grateful that BPS took steps to improve their equipment after a problem was pointed out.

"They got the information and they read the information and they did the right thing," she said.  "I feel better about him playing in these upgraded helmets."

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