Tag Archives: helmet

Breaking News: NFL Announces Winners of First HeadHealthTECH Challenge

The National Football League (NFL) and Football Research, Inc. (FRI) today announced the winners of HeadHealthTECH Challenge I and launched HeadHealthTECH Challenge II, which “invites proposals for improvements in football protective equipment including helmets and related technologies, turf systems, shoulder and other pads, and additional innovative concepts.”

The HeadHealthTECH Challenge series is one component of the Play Smart. Play Safe. Engineering Roadmap—a $60-million comprehensive plan funded by the NFL and managed by FRI “to create incentives for sporting goods companies, as well as other manufacturers, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and universities from around the world to develop improved helmets and protective equipment in the next three to five years.” Launched in November 2016, the TECH Challenge series is operated and managed on behalf of FRI by Duke University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (Duke CTSI).

“Our collective goal is to spur next-generation solutions in protective equipment,” said Jeff Miller, NFL Executive Vice President of Health and Safety Initiatives. “Not only do these grants advance promising technologies, but FRI’s expert partners at Duke CTSI provide valuable feedback and mentorship to all companies that submit proposals. We want to encourage and support new and innovative ideas that will improve sports safety.”

“The TECH Challenge series is designed to bridge the gap between the engineering and medical experts and the marketplace, and to direct funding where we can create value,” said BARRY MYERS, MD, PhD, MBA, Director of Innovation Duke CTSI, Coulter Program Director and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University and a consultant to the NFLPA. “If you’re an innovator, we want you to apply. We want to hear what your product is, what your vision is and how we can help you succeed.”

FRI awards “the most promising TECH Challenge proposals with a cumulative value of up to $1 million a year, including in-kind support. For TECH Challenge I, a panel of expert judges selected by Duke CTSI, in collaboration with FRI, reviewed and provided feedback on 50 proposals all focused on improved protective equipment. Every TECH Challenge applicant receives constructive feedback to help refine innovations and increase chances for success on future submissions and is invited to reapply.”

TECH Challenge I Winners:

  • VyaTek Sports received a grant of $190,000 to support development and testing of its Zorbz technology, a series of highly efficient energy-absorbing modules added to a helmet system that can be removed and replaced after a significant impact.
  • Guardian Innovations received a grant of $20,000 to support biomechanical testing of its Guardian Cap technology. The Guardian Cap is a decoupled, soft helmet cover designed to augment football helmets and reduce the severity of impacts.

Information about TECH Challenges and the process for making a submission can be found at: www.PlaySmartPlaySafe.com/HeadHealthTECH

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Clemson Study Focuses on Improving Facemasks to Help Reduce Football Brain Injuries

A team of Clemson University researchers and an Upstate businessman believe they can help make football a little safer by creating a facemask that can help reduce the severity of head injuries by increasing overall helmet protection.

The researchers are Gregory Batt, an assistant professor in the Clemson food, nutrition and packaging sciences department; John DesJardins, an associate professor of bioengineering and director of the Laboratory of Orthopaedic Design and Engineering; and Alex Bina, a doctoral student in bioengineering who also is a graduate research assistant in food, nutrition and packaging sciences. They are teaming up with Jay Elmore, owner of Green Gridiron to determine how future designs of facemasks can help improve the overall safety of football helmets. The team has received a nearly $50,000 grant from the Robert H. Brooks Sports Science Institute for their study “Quantifying the Impact Performance of Football Helmet Facemasks.”

“What we’re working on is trying to understand and evaluate the role a football helmet facemask plays in the overall impact performance of a football helmet system,” Bina said. “We’re doing this by evaluating the mechanisms by which forces are transmitted from the facemask through the rest of the helmet system upon impact.”

Impact forces on face masks

The forces Bina refers to are g-forces, which result from accelerations experienced by the head during impact. Bina and the rest of the team are working to make helmets more safe by creating a facemask that can help the helmet transfer g-forces away from the head. Traditional helmet design produces protective equipment that gradually decelerates the head upon impact. Facemasks are to prevent direct contact with players’ faces.

“Ideally, facemasks would deform slightly in order to produce gradual head deceleration, but not so much so as to put players at risk of injuring their faces,” Bina said. “However, the deformation properties of existing facemask designs are not available, making it impossible for doctors. trainers and parents to make informed decisions when purchasing a facemask for their helmet system. The first step in our facemask impact performance experimentation is to generate a ranking system of existing facemask designs based on their ability to deform.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, head injuries can occur when there is rapid change in the movement of the head, such as when a football player is tackled. Any significant force can have a detrimental effect on brain tissue. Batt said there are many different situations on a football field that cause rapid changes in velocity, or g-forces.

“These situations can be player-to-player or player-to-turf interactions,” Batt said. “These rapid changes in velocity can cause the player’s brain to move around and smash against the player’s skull. This trauma can result in a brain injury.”

The facemask tests

The Clemson team is using a linear drop tower system for its tests. Helmets tested in this manner are placed on an anthropomorphic head model and dropped from a specific height to generate a simulated football head impact. In the lab, the researchers said the linear drop tower testing system shows fewer than three impacts of 12 mph can cause permanent damage to facemasks. Football players of all positions commonly reach maximum velocities above 12 mph, especially on kickoff returns and coverage plays in both games and practice.

Using the linear drop system introduces many variables to the overall performance of a facemask design, including the helmet’s padding structure, the helmet’s outer shell and the chin strap buckles. Some facemask designs only fit one helmet style, but testing the entire helmet system will not specifically determine how one facemask performs compared to another.

“Because facemasks have been overlooked by the head impact research community, it is important to start at the structural and material level to determine appropriate facemask designs, then move into studying the method with which the facemask is attached to the helmet outer shell,” Bina said.

The facemask tests are being conducted in the head impact section, the Clemson Helmet Impact Performance Laboratory (CHIP LAB) of the Sonoco Packaging Science laboratory on the Clemson campus. Some variables the researchers are studying include structural stiffness, resistance to permanent deformation and energy absorption. Over the course of a season, an NFL or college team may experience a handful of permanent facemask deformations in game situations, requiring the equipment staff to replace the facemasks on the sideline. However, at the youth level, the course of a season’s worth of impacts in practices and games can permanently damage facemasks beyond repair.

Facemask reconditioning service providers, such as Green Gridiron in Greenville, select permanently damaged masks from youth, high school, college and professional programs and removes them from circulation. Undeformed masks are recoated and returned to teams.

Jay Elmore, founder and chief executive officer of Green Gridiron, believes in the Clemson facemask research. Elmore donated equipment to the Clemson professors for their research.

“I have been involved in football helmet facemask testing for more than six years and have struggled with inconsistent results,” Elmore said. “As a provider of football facemasks for teams across the country at various levels of play, we look forward to the testing methods developed at Clemson University and their ability to provide science-based and data-driven criteria for facemask selection and future facemask development.”

“When we set out to investigate facemask performance in general, there was no literature out there,” DesJardins said. “From a research university’s perspective, that’s the perfect thing to do: research something that is important but no one has done before.”

Football is a major sport at Clemson, so it is only natural a study on how to make the sport safer would be conducted by Clemson researchers.

“Anytime someone plays a contact sport, there’s a chance they will suffer a concussion,” said Danny Poole, Clemson’s director of sports medicine. “Football helmets were developed to help stop skull fractures, not concussions. If a helmet can be created that would stop concussions, everyone would buy it.”

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control about 75 percent of traumatic brain injuries that occur each year are concussions. Sports is second only to car crashes as the leading cause of brain injury among people aged 15 to 24 years.

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Court: Youth Football Organization’s Claim Can Continue

(Editor’s Note: What follows is an excerpt from a case summary that appeared in the July issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter. To subscribe, visit http://concussionpolicyandthelaw.com/subscribe/)

A federal judge from the Southern District of West Virginia has denied Riddell, Inc.’s motion to dismiss the second amended complaint filed by a non-profit youth football organization, which claimed that the helmet maker violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act (WVCCPA) when it promised that its Revolution Helmets could protect football players from concussions.

In so ruling, the court found that the “operative complaint sets forth the plaintiff’s claim with the particularity required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b).”

The plaintiff in the litigation is Midwestern Midget Football Club, Inc. (Midwestern), a non-profit youth football organization operating in Kanawha County, West Virginia.

Approximately 150 youth participate in Midwestern’s program every year. It supplies the helmets for these participants. Every year Midwestern purchases between 12 and 24 new Revolution Helmets for its participants, who are aged 14 years or younger.

Midwestern initially alleged that Riddell’s marketing claims about its Revolution Helmets were knowingly false. “Among other things, Midwestern contends that …

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