A team of researchers at the University of Florida says it has developed a new, safer football helmet lining that could better protect against head injuries.
Professor Ghatu Subhash and his team developed the lining to address concerns over concussions and head injuries, according to a news release.
“Currently, most football helmets are designed for linear force,” Subhash, a UF Research Foundation Professor and the Knox T. Millsaps Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, said in the release. “Our design takes into account linear and rotational force.”
Rotational hits, caused when a hit misses the middle of the helmet and slides to the side, account for 40 percent of head injuries. These types of hits jostle the brain inside the skull. Like linear hits, they can cause traumatic brain injury.
Subhash’s new helmet lining cushions these hits with the use of Newtonian fluids, made of water and air, and non-Newtonian fluids, which are like gels. Layers of these fluids form a protective padding that will help reduce the impact to the player's head by absorbing and distributing energy.
“The fluid-filled cells within the helmet respond, so no matter the angle of impact, the helmet automatically protects any part of the head,” Subhash said.
Subash and his team say the new technology will greatly reduce the risk of head trauma to football players who receive an illegal blow to the head or neck almost once each game, according to an Associated Press review of NFL penalties in 2013. Of the 1.7 million traumatic brain injuries that occur each year in the United States, 20 percent are sports-related, including those that can cause long-term damage, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Professor Subhash will begin demonstrating the helmet in late January and said the protective layer strips will be inexpensive and can work for just about anyone.
“You could go to the store and buy strips of this material and a $10 helmet and make it safer,” Subhash said. “This works for kids, works for soldiers, and for professional athletes, too.”