Florida researchers developing football helmets to reduce concussions
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. Continued...