Biomedical engineers at Brigham Young University have developed a nanocomposite “smartfoam” lining for football helmets, which measures impacts and can help coaches know if a player may have sustained a brain injury.
Football players risk concussions during games. If a player is involved in a collision, it can be difficult to know whether they should stop playing, or play on. Concussions aren’t always obvious right away, but continuing to play with a head injury can be very dangerous.
To address this problem, the team at Brigham Young University developed a new smartfoam lining for football helmets that can measure impacts electronically. The system can relay this information wirelessly to a tablet computer, letting a coach know if their player has taken a big hit and needs medical attention.
“The standard measurement systems on the market today directly measure acceleration, but just measuring the acceleration is not enough and can even be erroneous,” said Jake Merrell, an engineer involved in the research. “Our smartfoam sensors measure much more than just acceleration, which we see as a vital key to better diagnose head injuries.”
The foam acts as a replacement for standard helmet foam and measures impact energy, acceleration, and impact velocity. These values allow the system to determine the location and severity of an impact. When the foam is compressed during an impact, nickel nanoparticles rub against it, generating static electricity. An electrode in the foam measures this electrical charge and a microcomputer transmits the data wirelessly to a tablet computer.
This is the first system to successfully measure the velocity and impact energy of a collision, which are both crucial in determining the risk of a concussion. The Brigham Young team also incorporated the foam into shoulder pads to help measure impacts to the body.
Study in Annals of Biomedical Engineering: Nano-Composite Foam Sensor System in Football Helmets…