News

Researchers developing football helmets to reduce concussions

Researchers developing football helmets to reduce concussions

CONCUSSION-PROOF?: Researchers say they may have developed a helmet that can cut down on concussions. Photo: Reuters

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) – Researchers in Florida believe they have come up with a low-cost way to improve football helmets and better protect players against the glancing blows that experts say contribute to most concussions.

Protective sports helmets on the market today are largely designed to absorb shock from direct linear hits, like head butts, which force the head straight back, says University of Florida (UF) engineering professor Ghatu Subhash.

But Subhash’s new strategy makes use of fluid-filled pouches that, his tests show, also protect the brain from the rotational or shearing force of off-center hits on helmets.

“The fluid-filled cells within the helmet respond, so no matter the angle of impact, the helmet automatically protects any part of the head,” said Subhash, who came up with the idea while working on improving helmets and body armor for the military.

Subhash, along with his collaborators – UF neurosurgeon Ian Heger and UF radiologist Keith Peters – is set to unveil the safer helmet on Thursday. He will demonstrate its effectiveness on January 20 for venture capitalists, who could fund wider scale testing and manufacturing.

Subhash said he hopes to have low-cost pouches suitable for retrofitting existing helmets available in stores within two years.

The pouches also can be used in helmets for the military, firefighters and constructions workers, he said.

A growing body of academic research shows the repeated hits to the head to which football players are subjected can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition linked to the loss of decision-making control, aggression and dementia.

The National Football League agreed last year to pay more than $760 million to settle a lawsuit brought by more than 4,500 former players.

Subhash said cushions and water- or air-filled pouches typically have been used to help protect against linear blows.

But to blunt shearing or rotational forces, he adds pouches filled with non-Newtonian fluids, which he says increase resistance when stressed.

Think kids’ Flubber or Silly Putty, which can flow or break depending on stress, or chilled caramel ice cream topping which is easily spoonable yet stays put in an overturned jar. Non-Newtonian fluids also are used in some modern automobile shock absorbers, Subhash said.

Subhash said when one of his fluid-filled cells is struck, the fluid squeezes through a tube into a second cell, thus neutralizing the force. The fluid then returns to its original cell, making the pouches reusable.

Concern over the long-term impact of blows to the head has created a market for expensive helmets that claim to protect players from concussions.

“There are no helmets that will protect against concussions,” said Frederick Mueller, research director for the standard-setting body, National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.

“Helmet manufactures may say that, but none at the present time protect against concussion injuries,” he said.

Mueller’s organization has warned about the limitations of the testing used in a popular 5-Star helmet rating system created by Virginia Tech, including the lack of consideration of rotational forces.

“Many people believe that the rotational forces are more important than linear when you talk about concussions,” Mueller said.

(Editing by Kevin Gray and Gunna Dickson)

Recent Headlines

in Music

Soundgarden fan sends death threats to Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell of Soundgarden performs at Rock on the Range on Sunday, May 19, 2013 in Columbus, Ohio.

An obsessed fan of Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell has been arrested and charged with sending death threats to the rocker and his family.

in Music

Arcade Fire confused by fans’ love for free downloads

Win Butler and Reed Parry of Arcade Fire perform at the 2014 Big Day Out Festival.

Arcade Fire are baffled by the avalanche of online file-sharing because fans will regularly buy expensive coffee but expect to get records for free.

in Entertainment

Jamie Foxx to portray Mike Tyson in biopic

Actor Jamie Foxx poses for a portrait at the Crosby Street Hotel, in promotion of his upcoming role in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," on Sunday, April 27, 2014 in New York.

Jamie Foxx is set to portray boxing legend Mike Tyson in a movie after five years of preparation for the role.

in Music

Lars Ulrich fuels AC/DC Glastonbury rumor

Lars Ulrich of Metallica poses for portraits at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Thursday, May 16, 2013. Ulrich is promoting the film Metallica Through The Never, directed by Nimrod Antal.

Metallica star Lars Ulrich has fueled rumors rock veterans AC/DC will headline Britain's iconic Glastonbury festival next year.

in Entertainment

Kiefer Sutherland confused by Freddie Prinze, Jr. blast

Prinze Jr Sutherland

Kiefer Sutherland has been left baffled by former 24 co-star Freddie Prinze, Jr.'s public attack on the star's professionalism.