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Safer Helmets Make An Impact

Safer Helmets Make An Impact

A new polymer material reduces the force of collisions.

Safer Helmets Make An Impact

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 20:15

Marsha Lewis, Contributing Producer

In football, every throw, every catch, every block, and every run could lead to a dangerous blow.

“I’ve gotten hit some pretty good times, and given some,” said Ishmael Adams, a defensive back for UCLA’s football team.

“You could feel it go through your head, through your shoulders and into your body,” said Jordan Zumwalt, a linebacker who also plays for UCLA’s team.

Helmets offer some protection, but football players still run the risk of getting a concussion from one of those blows.

A mechanical engineer at UCLA wants to change that by specially designing a material that could reduce the force of a hit on the helmet.

“There are two components to it, so one is a hardener; the other is a softener,” said Vijay Gupta, a mechanical engineer at UCLA.

The two-millimeter material is about as thick as a nickel and can be placed right over the foam padding already inside a helmet. It helps the foam absorb shock better.

”When you combine this material with other existing foams that we use in a helmet, then there’s a synergistic effect,” explained Gupta.

To test the material, researchers use a grandfather-clock-sized hammering machine. First, a weight is dropped on a helmet without the new material. They can then see the amount of force on the helmet. Once the new material is added, the force is shown to be much lower. In fact, the experiments show the material can reduce the force a person would experience by up to 30 percent.

“The force comes down dramatically, and therefore you don’t get hurt,” said Gupta.

This type of technology could mean a safer game for the players and their brains.

Researchers are working with current helmet manufacturers to perform standard tests with the new material to reproduce the same results as in the lab.

Get Inside The Science:

Making Football Helmets Safer To Prevent Concussions

Vijay Gupta, Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, UCLA

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Author Bio & Story Archive

Marsha Lewis is a freelance producer based in California.  She has won 11 National Telly Awards and nine Regional Emmy Awards for her work in local and national syndicated news.

I’ve dedicated my time to reporting and producing stories focused on medical, science and technology. I created a nationally award winning series dedicated to promoting women and their great accomplishments.  Now I’ve taken that expertise outside the traditional TV news format and broadened the viewership to people around the world.