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Concussions in Sports

Posted: May 9th, 2011, 11:56 am
by jon_winebrenner
I was curious if anyone here has had any experience designing helmets for sports. Hockey and (American) Football specifically.

If you follow either of these sports, you will know that the topic of concussions, headshots, and everyone waiting for the day someone dies from a head injury in a professional game is a very hot topic of discussion.

Even today, Wouter Weylandt died in a cycling accident during the Giro. While he was going a bazillion Kilometers an hour down a hill, you have to expect that it was head trauma that was the primary cause of his death.

From a design perspective, I was wondering of anyone has any insight into this topic. Are helmets as good as they can be? Are there new ways of approaching the protection of the head? Can Design contribute to this topic? Is there technology available that is better than what is out there, but is stymied by not looking cool enough, or just being new technology that nobody will adopt?

Re: Concussions in Sports

Posted: May 9th, 2011, 12:54 pm
by thirdnorth
http://ca.gizmodo.com/5732813/designing ... ks-awesome

I found this helmet a few months ago. It's claim to fame is the multiple panels it uses to create the helmet and dissipate force and shock. The theory is based on research that shows the most damaging impact comes from glancing blows, and even a small amount of movement or give from the helmet will reduce the potential for injury.

There are other motorcycle helmet designs out there for protection of the brain, I think a couple of them had been posted here in the past. One keeps the brain cool in the event of a crash, and another has a flexible "skin" that absorbs some impact similar to human skin. I think the forces in play are similar in nearly all circumstances, so even though you are specifically asking for American football and hockey examples, it seems that the solutions could expand into other helmet designs.

Lazer SuperSkin Helmet:

http://inventorspot.com/articles/revolu ... c_br_38140

ThermaHelm motorcycle helmet:

http://www.mbike.com/news/2010/12/video ... rain-cool/

EDIT: Sorry the last paragraph is so poorly worded. Of course motorcycle helmets are designed to protect the brain. :roll:

I meant that while some companies' primary focus is on preventing damaging forces from reaching the brain, another area of R&D is focused on protecting the brain from further trauma by keeping it cool after a forceful impact. Obviously the priority is on prevention, but the ThermaHelm is unique in that it directly addresses the injury resulting from the helmet's first-purpose failure in a worst-case scenario.

Re: Concussions in Sports

Posted: May 9th, 2011, 3:16 pm
by Mr-914
IP: Yeah, you can, but it's complicated.

First of all, the athletes don't want them. Pro bike and hockey helmets are built down to the weight & offer just the required amount of protection (yes, there are standards). Any more weight is competitive disadvantage. Just like steroids, it might be harmful to your body, but at this level, winning is everything.

Second, there are standards. It's great to ensure a minimum of protection for any of the products you find on a shelf in a store (with proper label of course). However, it makes people feel they are safe enough. I know in football, we really need the NFL and NCAA to just require better protection (in fact, NFL now requires hip pads, previously optional). Unfortunately, they are snail-like slow.

Third, better protection can lead to more damage. It was the better football helmets of the 1970's that lead to running backs leading with their head. No one in a leather helmet would dare try that.

I think the "wuss" factor may be the smallest difficulty of them all. However, it does show how great concepts need great design. Show a pro athlete something that was jury-rigged in a garage and he will laugh you off and tell all his friends what a dork you are. Show him a hot design and explain how he will be able to have a normal conversation with his kids when he is 50 and you have a shot.

Re: Concussions in Sports

Posted: May 9th, 2011, 4:10 pm
by Lmo
Shaw, aka NXAKT, designs head gear...

Re: Concussions in Sports

Posted: May 9th, 2011, 4:26 pm
by NURB
Exhibit A: The Rawlings S100... AKA The Gazoo helmet.

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Re: Concussions in Sports

Posted: May 9th, 2011, 6:19 pm
by slippyfish
One of the big obstacles with helmets is ventilation, which has requirements that are often 180-degrees out from shock attenuation or looking good. There are lots of really neat shock absorbing materials out there - Skydex is used in military applications from headgear to boat decks - harder variations or multiple densities of thermo-foam have been used too. The helmet company I used to work for had a patents on progressively crushable EPS liners that did much better on the Snell and ANSI tests than the competition.

Re: bike helmets and crashes - I didn't see today's crash ( :cry: but I don't think a better helmet would have made much of a difference. Bike helmets are sold on appearance, weight, and ventilation. Very little has been done on the inside in the way of making a big difference in how many G's affect your brain. Its mostly to make the helmet thinner and lighter so you'll wear it, while still passing the test standards.

I think the box-within-a-box method has the most promise, like in a drop-proof computer.

Re: Concussions in Sports

Posted: May 9th, 2011, 7:21 pm
by scrotum

Re: Concussions in Sports

Posted: May 9th, 2011, 7:33 pm
by sanjy009
thirdnorth wrote:Third, better protection can lead to more damage. It was the better football helmets of the 1970's that lead to running backs leading with their head. No one in a leather helmet would dare try that
I'll have to find the example, but I believe the use of protection (helmets, shoulder pads etc) in American Football perversely increased injuries, as they became used as 'weapons'.
Mr-914 wrote:First of all, the athletes don't want them. Pro bike and hockey helmets are built down to the weight & offer just the required amount of protection (yes, there are standards).
Interesting that bike helmets improve aerodynamics but there is still a resistance to the weight- 200gms?

Re: Concussions in Sports

Posted: May 9th, 2011, 7:40 pm
by NURB
sanjy009 wrote:[
Interesting that bike helmets improve aerodynamics but there is still a resistance to the weight- 200gms?
Absolutely. Not only that, but in competition (such as an uphill mountain stage at the Tour) many remove the helmets altogether. It's pretty much the only UCI race where that is allowed.

When year after year bicycle manufacturers tout weight savings from the previous year's frame/components, people notice and it drives sales. A sub-900g bike frame would have been unheard of 10 years ago. Now, it's heavy.

Re: Concussions in Sports

Posted: May 10th, 2011, 6:55 am
by Mr-914
On a side note, this is big news in Montreal today:
A 56-year-old man is being kept artificially alive after he slammed into the door of a car which was parked on Van Horne Avenue in the Montreal borough of Outremont.

The accident, called 'dooring', happened at 1:45 p.m. ET on Sunday just east of Wiseman Avenue.
The fifth paragraph finally says he wasn't wearing a helmet. Ouch. It's pretty amazing that we know that we can die if we just fall over in place and hit our heads, but put us on a bike that goes 20mph and we think nothing can happen.

This last incident peeved me off because they haven't stopped talking about bike lanes on the radio. How about, "GET A HELMET". Jeez... people are thick.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/ ... elmet.html

Re: Concussions in Sports

Posted: May 10th, 2011, 10:47 am
by vapor
i work in the hockey industry, and as far as preventing concussions, helmets aren't going to do much.. they're not CSA or HECC certified to do anything that reduces your chances of a concussion, only to prevent lacerations/skull fracture.

there's a company that came out with a helmet they claimed would reduce the chance of concussion, but they've since had to change their PR angle after the better business bureau couldn't find any proof in their advertising claims, and specified that they can't imply that the helmet does anything in that regard.

plus you have players that wear their chin strap so loose they can "palm" their helmet on and off:
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Re: Concussions in Sports

Posted: May 10th, 2011, 11:29 am
by jon_winebrenner
@vapor I love that you chose Bertuzzi for the image :)

Re: Concussions in Sports

Posted: May 10th, 2011, 11:33 am
by jon_winebrenner
NURB wrote:Exhibit A: The Rawlings S100... AKA The Gazoo helmet.

Why is it called the Gazoo helmet? Cuz it makes your head huge like Gazoo from the Flintstones?

Re: Concussions in Sports

Posted: May 10th, 2011, 11:40 am
by pier
I have the crazy idea this issue may be attacked by the insurance industry.

I foresee, sometime in future, some as yet developed active impact sense and response technology, a mix of motorsports active suspension and airbag like technology. Not force-sensitive azide based explosive, but the method of pico / femto second sense-response.

And in the days of 100 million $ employees, insurance underwriters will start to include policies based on some advanced technology protection usage to mitigate payouts. Athlete contracts will include clauses mandating usage, draftees will be beholden to signing them.

Same goes for the similar issue of MCL, ACL knee injuries. Individual athlete tuned specific active sense-response brace type device that in its response mechanism somehow prevents tissue damage.

Further, I see these active sense-response athlete protection mechanisms will also be data collectors, communicating with team controllers for further analysis.

But it will start with some small research lab somewhere and eventually be slowly implemented by the bludgeon of the insurance industry.

Re: Concussions in Sports

Posted: May 10th, 2011, 11:56 am
by NURB
ip_wirelessly wrote:
NURB wrote:Exhibit A: The Rawlings S100... AKA The Gazoo helmet.

Why is it called the Gazoo helmet? Cuz it makes your head huge like Gazoo from the Flintstones?
Exactly.
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