Tag Archives: technology
To reduce the risk of concussion, researchers and others have sought ways to improve helmet technology as a way to resolve the problem.
A better solution may be to ditch the helmets altogether, according to a new study in the Journal of Athletic Training, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s scientific publication. Researchers investigated the effectiveness of helmetless tackling to reduce head-impact exposure in an NCAA Division I football program.
The study, partially funded by the NATA Research & Education Foundation, showed a 28 percent reduction in head impacts during practices and games. To review “Early Results of a Helmetless-Tacking Intervention to Decrease Head Impacts in Football Players,” please visit:
“Given proper training, education and instruction, college football players can safely perform supervised tackling and blocking drills in practice without helmets,” said Erik E. Swartz, PhD, ATC, FNATA, lead author of the study and professor and chair, Department of Kinesiology, University of New Hampshire. “This intervention also eliminates a false sense of security a player may feel when wearing a helmet. Younger players with less experience may require modifications to this intervention to realize a positive effect. While more research is needed, our results do show a reduction in head impacts during our one season of testing.”
The findings are from the first year of a two-year study in which 50 NCAA Division 1 football players at the University of New Hampshire were assigned to an intervention (25 athletes) or control (25 athletes) group. The intervention group participated in five-minute tackling drills without their helmets and shoulder pads as part of the Helmetless Tackling Training (HuTT) program. Drills occurred twice per week during preseason practices and once per week throughout the competitive season (16 weeks). The control group performed noncontact football skills with no change to their routine. All athletes were provided head-impact patch sensors worn on the skin and new helmets. Both groups were supervised by members of the football coaching staff. At the end of the season, the intervention group experienced an average 30 percent fewer impacts per exposure than the control group.
The notion of removing the football helmet for discrete and regular periods during practice to reduce head impact is counterintuitive to the sport, wrote the authors. “These findings elucidate the risk-compensation phenomenon and may help explain the behavior of spearing and the rise in catastrophic neck and head injuries that followed,” they added. “A football helmet is designed to protect players from traumatic head injury, but it also enables them to initiate and sustain impacts because of the protection it affords. While improving protective equipment in and of itself will not resolve the risk of concussion and spine injury in football, the solution may be found in behavior modification.”
High school and college football players can each sustain more than 1,000 impacts in a season, while individual youth players may sustain 100 during that same timeframe according to the study. “The extent to which this intervention may yield similar outcomes in younger players with less experience is still unknown. We are currently in the first year of a high school study focused on four high schools in New Hampshire,” adds Swartz.
“Should future research replicate our findings, the eventual adoption of helmetless-tackling training may improve public health and decrease the associated economic burden by reducing football-related head and neck injuries and the risk of long-term complications.”
A New Mexico State University researcher and an engineering graduate student have partnered with Arrowhead Center’s student business incubator, Studio G, to further develop a protective shield technology that could help reduce concussions and even save lives. The partnership is supported by a $50,000 award from the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps program.
The technology is based on a damage-trap material interface researched and developed by Roy L. Xu, a research associate professor in NMSU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. In 2002, while working on his doctorate thesis research at the California Institute of Technology, Xu discovered a very thin interface bonding that could stop impact damage of layered brittle polymers subjected to an impact speed up to about 100 miles per hour.
“Bullet proof materials such as Kevlar usually have a low resistance to a sharp knife,” Xu said.
The damage-trap material interface, or DTMI, when combined with other polymers, can mitigate that weakness – and is light and cost-effective enough for use in shields for backpacks and cases for laptops and tablets.
Motivated by concern about violent incidents in the news, including shootings at Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook Elementary School, as well as a knife attack in China, Xu saw an opportunity to improve on the $300 to $400 bulletproof backpacks currently available.
“I visited Virginia Tech only one week before the deadliest shooting incident in U.S. history,” Xu said. “I visited the building and the same professor who had saved student lives.”
The researcher and father of an elementary-aged child calls the interface material a “magic adhesive.”
When used as part of a hybrid material with bulletproof materials like Kevlar and knife-proof materials like polycarbonate aluminum, the DTMI can successfully stop impact damage, increasing the effectiveness of the hybrid material.
NMSU chemical engineering graduate student Brian Patterson is working with the technology through Studio G, and pursued the I-Corps funding opportunity with Xu and Studio G Director Kramer Winingham. The goal is to commercialize the lightweight and affordable material.
“Business ideas that are presented through this program have a direct impact on research and development and are closely related,” Patterson said. “Therefore, it’s important to understand the business components as they dictate the R&D direction.”
The team interviewed 100 potential customers to gain a better understanding of the market for their technology.
The I-Corps program and activities prepare scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and broaden the impact of their projects. One of the I-Corps objectives is to have an entrepreneurial student who shows potential in business and technology handle the commercialization.
“I-Corps is a tremendous program that teaches students how to be entrepreneurs,” Winingham said. “Brian, as the entrepreneurial lead for our team, has done an outstanding job and has learned a lot. Based on his efforts, I believe Dr. Xu’s technology is significantly closer to market.”
The DTMI material also has applications in football helmets and could help reduce concussion risk for players. The helmet shell materials with DTMI designs could increase impact-energy absorption at least 130 percent, compared to the current shell materials.
“A key finding during the I-Corps program was the opportunity for an advanced helmet shell design that could reduce concussions and adapt to other helmet technologies,” Winingham said. “This appears to be the best initial application for Dr. Xu’s technology.”
As a result of the I-Corps program and the helmet shell design, Xu has been invited to submit a full-technical proposal, in collaboration with researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, to the third NFL Head Health Challenge, an open competition to advance materials that better absorb or dissipate energy.
“Dr. Xu’s technology offers some exciting capabilities,” said Winingham. “Our challenge was identifying the best use for those capabilities, and through Brian’s hard work and resourcefulness, we identified the most promising applications and gained a lot from the I-Corps program.”
GE (NYSE: GE) and the NFL announced today the six final winners of the up to $10 million Head Health Challenge I. Banyan Biomarkers, Inc., San Diego, Calif.; BrainScope Company, Inc. Bethesda, Md.; Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wis.; Quanterix, Lexington, Mass.; University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), Santa Barbara, Calif.; and University of Montana, Missoula, Mont.; each will receive a $500,000 award to advance their work to speed diagnosis and improve treatment for mild traumatic brain injury. This award is in addition to $300,000 previously awarded to the 16 first round winners of the Head Health Challenge I.
The goal of Head Health Challenge I is to improve the safety of athletes, members of the military and society overall. The winners were selected from an initial group of 16 challenge winners that were chosen from more than 400 entries from 27 countries, after having been reviewed and nominated by a panel of leading healthcare experts in brain research, imaging technologies, and advocates for advances in brain research.
“We are truly impressed by the quality of the work and the measurable progress being made by these winning organizations,” said Alan Gilbert, director health policy, government and community strategy for GE healthymagination. “There are a number of breakthrough ideas that are advancing our understanding of the brain and have applications not only on the playing field but also extend to neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.”
Jeff Miller, NFL senior vice president of health and safety policy said, “It’s exciting to witness the breakthroughs accomplished by the winners. Their efforts will truly advance the science around brain injury. We look forward to continuing to support this work and benefiting not only football and other sports, but society more broadly.”
Challenge I Final Award Winners and their areas of research and innovation:
Banyan Biomarkers, Inc. San Diego, Calif. – Banyan Biomarkers, Inc. is developing a point-of-care blood test to rapidly detect the presence of mild and moderate brain trauma to improve the medical management of head injured patients. Researchers from Banyan Biomarkers and the University of Florida are collaborating on a sports concussion study to analyze biomarkers, neurocognitive testing, and neuroimaging on student athletes. Banyan Biomarkers expects twenty blood-based markers for head injury will be added to the study in the coming year which will help provide researchers a better understanding of the biochemical pathways that occur in the brain after a concussion and, ultimately, assist to develop treatments to improve clinical outcomes.
BrainScope Company, Inc. Bethesda, Md. – BrainScope, in collaboration with the Purdue Neurotrauma Group, conducted a study of athletes using both neuroimaging tools as well as BrainScope’s urgent care, handheld, EEG-based traumatic brain injury detection technology. The research supported the utility of the BrainScope markers as a surrogate for neuroimaging and revealed its potential to identify those with increased vulnerability and susceptibility to concussion. BrainScope is developing a concussion assessment system to identify concussed from non-concussed patients and provide a method for assessment of concussed patients over time. This system in development is intended for use by clinicians from initial point-of-care assessment to rehabilitation of head-injured patients.
Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wis. – Using MRI scanning technology, researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin are determining the direct effects of sports-related concussions on brain structure and function. The aim of the study is to advance the discovery of more objective biomarkers to assist in diagnosing concussion, determining when an athlete’s brain has fully recovered, and clinical decision making about the athlete’s fitness to return to play after a concussion.
Quanterix, Lexington, Mass. – Quanterix has developed a simple blood test to aid in the detection of traumatic brain injury. Using its Simoa technology, Quanterix is able to measure molecular signatures (biomarkers) of brain injury in blood. Quanterix is working to detect and quantify mild to moderate traumatic brain injury almost immediately after the injury has taken place, which will help to better predict the long-term prognosis of individuals who have undergone acute and repetitive injuries. Quanterix’s goal is to provide a blood test that speeds the diagnosis of a concussion in a clinical setting and on the sidelines in a sports arena, therefore improving and accelerating treatment.
University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), Santa Barbara, Calif. – The UCSB Brain Imaging Center, in collaboration with faculty in the computer sciences, is developing statistical methods to detect damage to the deep connections in the brains of patients after a mild head injury. Recent breakthroughs in both MRI scanning and data analysis make it possible to detect subtle brain changes in individual patients after mild concussions. This approach will be tested with clinical data from collaborators using a variety of MRI scanners.
University of Montana, Missoula, Mont. – Researchers at the University of Montana have identified blood-based biomarkers that indicate how the brain reacts following a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Research over the past year has demonstrated changes in specific plasma microRNAs (micro ribonucleic acids) in TBI patients over a period of several months. The identification and validation of these markers could help with diagnosis and assessing recovery after a head injury as well as testing the effectiveness of new treatments for TBI.
Launched in March 2013, the Head Health Challenge is part of the Head Health Initiative, a four-year, $60 million collaboration between GE and the NFL to speed diagnosis and improve treatment for mild traumatic brain injury. The initiative includes a four-year, $40 million research and development program from the NFL and GE to evaluate and develop next generation imaging technologies to improve diagnosis that would allow for targeting treatment therapy for patients with mild traumatic brain injury.
In addition to Challenge I, GE and the NFL launched two additional open innovation challenges to invest in research and technology development to better understand, diagnose and protect against brain injury. Challenge II was initiated by GE, the NFL and Under Armour to uncover new innovations and materials that better protect the brain from traumatic injury and new tools for tracking head impacts in real time. GE, the NFL and Under Armour also have partnered with the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to launch Head Health Challenge III, an open innovation competition to promote next generation materials that better absorb or dissipate energy. These new materials could improve the performance of protective equipment for athletes, military personnel and those in dangerous occupations.