New helmet, turf cushion, tether to slow head snaps in works

Thu Dec 3, 2015 5:51pm EST
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By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An impact absorbing helmet, a cushion for artificial turf and a rubberized tether that slows the speed of the head snapping back after a collision were products named winners of a research challenge co-sponsored by the NFL.

The University of Washington, which developed the helmet, Viconic Sporting for their cushion and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory for the tether will receive up to $1 million more in funding from the National Football League, Under Armour and GE.

"This is an opportunity to see what the future is going to look like," Jeffrey Miller, senior vice president of Health and Safety for the NFL, told Reuters on Thursday after announcing the awards given under its Head Health Challenge initiatives.

Three separate innovation challenges are providing up to $20 million in research and technology development to better understand, identify and protect against brain injury.

Concussions and the brain damage they can cause have become a crucial issue for the National Football League, intensifying after the suicide deaths of Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, who shot themselves in the chest to preserve their brains for study.

In April, the league reached a settlement of a lawsuit brought by former players over concussions that could cost the NFL $1 billion as a federal appeals court mulls whether the settlement figure is sufficient.

This challenge involved practical technologies judged to be close to a commercial phase, and seven finalists for the award won an initial research grant of $500,000.

The tether, first devised for use in knee and ankle braces for soldiers, "utilizes an elastic strap that at slow speeds acts like a rubber band, stretching and relaxing easily," Eric D. Wetzel, Ph.D., of the Army Research Laboratory told Reuters.   Continued...

The NFL logo is seen on a trailer parked near the New Meadowlands Stadium where the New York Jets and New York Giants NFL football teams play home games in East Rutherford, New Jersey, March 14, 2011.   REUTERS/Mike Segar