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Purdue Researches Safer Polymer-Lined Football Helmet

football helmets

Photo: Flicktone (flickr)

The helmets already in use in the National Football League and many college programs are designed to prevent skull fractures.

Football head injury experts at Purdue University say they have developed new helmet technology that would massively decrease the shock to the brain resulting from on-field impact.

And the engineers in Purdue‘s Neurotrauma Group say their approach is getting results for a much smaller investment than the studies done by medical schools.

“The NFLPA just gave $100 million to Harvard,” says Eric Nauman, Professor of Biomechanical Engineering. “And our whole investment in this current technology is about $35,000.”

Nauman acknowledges that he and his colleagues are not medical doctors. But he says their engineering perspective can help address biomedical problems. Their approach is a polymer-lined helmet.

Tests conducting with an Army helmet indicate the approach can reduce the G-force to a player‘s brain by 50 percent.

“It was about 400 Gs for this type of test–a pretty severe test,” says Nauman. “And when we put in our material, we got it down to 186.”

The helmets already in use in the National Football League and many college programs are designed to prevent skull fractures. But Nauman says they do nothing to disperse energy. And that, he says, is a critical shortcoming.

Nauman says the next step is to develop a version that can be commercially produced. And there is one other thing to be addressed.

“We have to come up with a name for it,” he said.

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