“As Americans grow more aware of the risk of brain injury tied to football – the country’s most popular sport – players and coaches are experimenting with the latest technology in a bid to make the game safer.”
“…The largest U.S. helmet manufacturers, as well as independent designers, are testing novel ways to cushion big and small blows to the head, or to provide immediate relief in the minutes after a major injury.”
Examples of new technology include:
The “Guardian” helmet cover
Model High became one of the first high schools to test a new helmet cover called the Guardian. The Hanson Group of Alpharetta, Georgia and Protective Sports Equipment of Edinboro, Pennsylvania developed the unique cover that cushions against helmet-to helmet blows. The Guardian fits over the helmet and has 37 gel-filled pouches to protect against concussions.
Local league rules are not clear yet as to allowing the use of the covers during games so the team only wore them during practice.
“If we can reduce a lot of the concussions that happen during practice and he compounding of all the hits over and over again, that’s going to maybe save somebody’s life or their brain and prevent future dementia, Hanson said.”
Powers agreed: The year before we used the Guardian, we had 10 to 12 kids that had to either miss a practice or two or even a game because of head-injury symptoms. And this year we had zero. So from that aspect, I’m sold on it.”
Air filled pads
Other companies are testing more dramatic changes such as Xenith LLC’s, which uses air filled pads rather than foam in their line of helmets. Riddell, the sponsor of the NFL’s helmets, frequently checks the padding and design of its equipment for improvements.
Helmets that cool down after big hit
Thermocrown is a product being designed by Themopraxis and Schutt Sports, which is the largest producer of football helmets.
“Based on an idea developed by Brazilian neuroscientist Renato Rozental, the device is a bladder that can fit inside a player’s helmet. In the event of a hard hit to the head, a trainer or teammate would attach a source of cooling gas to the bladder to lower the head’s temperature and stave off damage.”
Thermocrown would be comparable to applying an ice pack and will allow time, as much as 4 to 5 hours, for the injured player to be transported to a hospital.
Another design, Bulwark, is in process by Michael Princip where several plates are on the helmet’s exterior instead of the common design of one single-piece. This design will disperse the impact of considerable hits and the smaller repeated ones that are unfortunately a part of the game.
In my opinion: Helmet technology will need to advance rapidly to reduce the severity and frequency risks of head to head contact. The future of the sport in light of recent concussion fears will be riding on this new technology in addition to education, further testing, and rule modifications.
Source: Insurance Journal, April 3, 2012
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