PORON Cushioning Blog Blog

PORON Cushioning Blog

Good News Bad News on Helmet Safety

Posted by Dave Sherman on Monday, August 15th, 2011 | 1 Comment »

Have you seen much in the news recently about head injuries in sports?  If you haven’t, I’d like to welcome you to Earth, enjoy your visit and please help keep the planet clean.

If you have been following the issue, you’ll know that it’s pretty complicated, with lots of ideas about what causes concussions, and what might help us reduce these devastating injuries.  Is it caused by unsportsmanlike play like spearing in football?  Is it large impacts like an open field tackle or a fastball high and hard?  Or is it an accumulation of lots of small impacts like a lineman hitting the ground 30 or 40 times in a game.  Can we reduce these kinds of injuries best by changing rules against some kinds of contact, or can we improve the equipment to protect players better?

I think we’ll find that there’s not a single cause of concussion, but several that contribute, and that they demand a combination of solutions working like a team to effectively defend the player.  A star defensive player on that team will surely be improvements to the equipment.  But another star player on that team will need to be its choices of safety equipment.

Players are going to need to be fans of improved safety.   There have been great improvements in football helmets recently,
including the use of improved impact materials in Rawlings NRG, improved shell design in the Riddell Revolution, and a suspension system in the Xenith X1.  But on any given Sunday, I still see mostly helmets with decades old designs.

In the NFL, the player gets to choose his helmet style, and most choose it by how it looks in the mirror first, and how small and light (least protection) secondly.  In baseball, Rawlings has introduced the S100 helmet designed to protect against a 100 mph fastball.  The current standard protects against 65 mph.  Yet only a handful of major league players are using the new helmet.  In hockey, a serious player will spend $,1000 on skates and $200 on a stick, but complains about $65 for a helmet.

There are some signs that things are changing.  The NFL is looking at changing the impact standards for helmets.  MLB is mandating that minor league players have to use the S100. Hockey has started a consortium of experts to help lead their
improvements.

Unfortunately, that’s not likely cause change to come quickly.  I recently read that a group of NFL players was suing the NFL for not protecting them adequately against concussions.  Like many things in our society, lawsuits that put money at risk will speed the adoption of improvements along.  Little League will mandate the S100 when their money is at risk.  High Schools will buy better helmets when they fear being sued.  Everybody knows seatbelts are a good safety idea, but it took legislation to force car companies to build them into every car, and legislation to enforce the use of them.

The good news is that better protection already exists, and more is being developed continuously.  The bad news is that the decision to use it has to be taken out of  the players hands.

Dave Sherman

Dave Sherman

Technical Design Solutions Manager at XRD® Impact Institute
Dave Sherman is the Innovation Leader at the XRD® Impact Institute - the research, design and testing facility of XRD® Impact Protection Technology. His experience involves a wide variety of foams including polyethlyene, polypropylene, EVA, rubber, polyurethane, silicone, and melamine. He has a Chemical Engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from RPI, as well as over 30 years of experience in the business of developing material solutions to meet demanding customer needs.

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