The end of August marks the start of both NFL football and NCAA college football here in the U.S. With every new season come renewed fears of career-ending and health-endangering injuries. One of the scariest football-related injuries is a concussion, which, if severe enough, can lead to other life-long physical and cognitive problems. At the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), they take their football very seriously, so biomechanical engineering professor Vijay Gupta and his team came up with a way to reduce the G-forces a player’s brain would experience during a hard hit with just a 2 millimeter thick strip of polymer inside a helmet.
The UCLA-developed polymer is a special material that actually had its roots as a bonding agent for ships being built for the U.S. Navy. The polymer was shown to have the ability to withstand shocks from explosions, so Gupta, who shares a fondness for American football, decided to test the material on explosive helmet-to-helmet hits. In tests that utilize a heavy weight dropped onto helmets both with and without the strip of polymer, Gupta observed that the material reduced the G-forces on a player’s head by up to 25 percent. Interestingly, the reduction of G-forces only occurred when the polymer was applied to the inside of the helmet on the foam padding, and the effects were achieved without having to alter the design of the helmet itself.
Other than the football field, Gupta says that his polymer could also be used on the battlefield, where soldiers are exposed to dangerous shock waves from explosions. Runners could also benefit by using the polymer as a new type of insole or foot orthotic, which could help increase the life of their knee cartilage.
So, this football season, stay safe, and to my fellow USC Trojan readers out there who may have cringed a bit reading this article, fight on and beat UCLA!
Article from UCLA: Making football helmets safer to prevent concussions