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NFL, Under Armour, GE & National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Announce Five Winners of Head Health Challenge III

The National Football League (NFL), Under Armour (NYSE:UA), GE (NYSE: GE), and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today announced the five winners of Head Health Challenge III, “an open innovation competition to support the discovery, design and development of advanced materials that better absorb or dissipate impact,” according to an NFL press release. “The new materials have the potential to improve the performance of protective gear, playing surfaces, and equipment for athletes, members of the military and others.”2012-11-02 21.46.43

Each of the winners will receive $250,000 to advance their work. A panel of leading experts in the field of materials science selected these five winners from 125 entries because they met the challenge’s technical criteria to maximize energy absorption and minimize momentum transfer. One overall Head Health Challenge III winner will be selected from the five awardees to receive a $500,000 grand prize.

“The innovations in material science that we’ve seen in this challenge will have significant applications in a range of equipment that will better protect our athletes, soldiers, children and others,” said Jeff Miller, NFL Senior Vice President of Health and Safety Policy.

Alan Gilbert, Director healthymagination, GE said, “I’m encouraged to see the progress from our collaboration with NIST. The goal of convening the brightest engineers, scientists and inventors was to advance and produce better materials for preventing injury, better tools for physicians, and better treatments for patients. Based on what we’ve seen from these five winners, we are moving in a positive direction.”

Kevin Haley President, Product & Innovation, Under Armour said, “By utilizing our open innovation platform, we’ve discovered some of the most forward-thinking material innovators that will positively affect the future of impact protection. Our hope is that the groundbreaking work being done by our five winners will help drive material innovation in the name of safety across a variety of applications and we are extremely impressed with the progress made to-date.”

“The winning materials show a great deal of ingenuity in their approaches to energy absorption and have the potential to improve the next generation of protective systems,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Willie E. May. “Our NIST experts are looking forward to working with the winning research teams as they further develop their innovative materials.”

The Challenge III award winners are:

  • Alba Technic, LLC (Winthrop, Maine) has developed a patented, shock-absorbent honeycomb material with an outer layer that diverts the energy from a fall or hit. The material is normally soft and compliant, but upon impact, the outer layer changes into a hard shell to spread the energy and protect the user from injury.
  • Charles Owen Inc. (Lincolnton, Ga.) made cellular structures that use a stacked, origami-like design to optimize energy absorption. The essential building block of this winning material is a double corrugated sheet of the material, whose ability to fold efficiently was originally developed for applications in areas such as solar array packing in the space industry.
  • Corsair Innovations (Plymouth, Mass.) has developed a textile that uses tiny, spring-like fibers to repel rotational and linear impacts, thereby reducing potential damage. Unlike foam materials, this textile is washable, breathable, wicks sweat and can be easily engineered to meet impact performance requirements.
  • Dynamic Research Inc. (Torrance, Calif.) and 6D Helmets LLC are collaborating to evolve 6D’s single-impact suspension technology for use in repeated impact conditions. The suspension technology consists of a multi-layer, suspended internal liner system that allows the outer layer to move independently of the inner layer in order to reduce the effect of both angular and linear impact forces.
  • University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Mich.) researchers designed a lightweight, multi-layered composite that includes a viscoelastic material. This material can be uniquely utilized to help limit the force of multiple and repeated impact events.

The finalists will work with the HHC III partners to optimize their materials over the coming year.

The Challenge III judges were:

  • Jeff Crandall, professor in Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Virginia. Crandall’s research focuses on mechanisms of injury under impact loading.
  • Sharon Glotzer, Ph.D., professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan. Glotzer’s research focuses on the ability to manipulate matter at the molecular, nanoparticle, and colloidal level to create “designer” structures.
  • Heinrich Jaeger, Ph.D., professor of Physics at the University of Chicago. Jaeger’s team at the University of Chicago is involved in projects ranging from the assembly of next-generation nanostructures to investigations of the complex nonlinear behavior of granular materials, including grain, gravel, pharmaceutical pills and ultrafine powders.
  • Michael Maher, program manager for the Defense Sciences Offices at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Maher’s current interests include development of new technologies to reduce the manufacturing cycle time and novel lightweight multifunctional material systems.
  • Tresa Pollock, Ph.D., chair of the Materials Department at the University of California – Santa Barbara. Pollock’s current interests include the mechanical and environmental performance of materials in extreme environments, unique high temperature materials processing paths, ultrafast laser-material interactions, alloy design and 3-D materials characterization.
  • Alton D. Romig, Ph.D., vice president and general manager of Advanced Development Programs Engineering and Advanced Systems, known as Skunk Works, for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. In this role, Romig focuses on generating breakthrough technologies and designs for aircrafts and is known as the leader in aerospace innovation.
  • Alan Taub, Ph.D., professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan. Taub is pursuing research in advanced materials and processing and leading an initiative to establish a new center within the U-M College of Engineering that will focus on advanced manufacturing of lightweight material structures for automotive and aerospace applications.

According to the league, “Head Health Challenge III, part of the larger Head Health Initiative, a four-year, $60 million collaboration between GE and the NFL, is one of three open innovation challenges to invest up to $20 million in research and technology development to better understand, identify and protect against brain injury. Challenge I focused on discovering imaging and methods for diagnosis and prognosis of mild traumatic brain injuries, and in July 2015, six grand prize winners were awarded $500,000 to further their revolutionary research. Challenge II focused on new technologies to monitor, identify and protect against mild traumatic brain injury, and in December 2015, three grand prize winners were announced. The winners could receive up to $1 million over the next year to continue to advance their innovations.

“The Head Health Challenge III collaboration helps implement a pledge by NIST and the Department of Commerce to invest resources to accelerate the development of materials that can protect against concussions, made at the White House’s Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit in May 2014.”

For more information about the Head Health Challenge, visit headhealthchallenge.com.

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Under Armour, NFL & GE Announce Seven Winners of Head Health Challenge II

Under Armour (NYSE:UA), the NFL and GE (NYSE: GE) has announced seven winners of the Head Health Challenge II. Each award winner will receive $500,000, and will also have the opportunity to receive an additional  $1,000,000 to advance their work to better protect against brain injury. The disruptive ideas introduced by these seven entities are designed to increase brain safety for athletes, members of the armed forces and society at-large. The stories behind the winning entities and their pioneering efforts in this field are showcased in seven short online videos available to watch at www.headhealthchallenge.com.

The award winners were selected from nearly 500 proposals from 19 countries, which were submitted between September 2013 and February 2014. Under Armour, the NFL and GE will monitor the progress of these seven initiatives during the next year, and will reward up to five of the winning teams with an additional $1,000,000 in 2015, contingent upon continued innovation advancements, potential for commercialization and on-field impact.

The open innovation challenge is part of the multi-year collaboration among Under Armour, GE and the NFL called the Head Health Initiative. Launched in March 2013, 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, which would allow for targeting treatment therapy for patients with mild traumatic brain injury. The two open innovation challenges will provide as much as $20 million in research and technology development to better understand, diagnose and protect against brain injury.

The Challenge award winners are:

Army Research Laboratory, Baltimore, MD—The Army Research Laboratory (ARL) created rate-dependent tethers that allow free motion at low speeds, but provide high force resistance during high-speed events.  ARL proposes using these smart materials to connect the head to the torso, allowing voluntary head movement during sports action, while minimizing sudden accelerations caused by high speed collisions, often associated with concussions.  Beyond sports, this technology also has the potential to mitigate head trauma for members of the military.

Emory University, Atlanta, GA—Researchers and engineers from Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology developed a prototype medical device that can screen and assess concussions in near real-time. The portable device, known as iDETECT, can be used on the sidelines of sporting events. It consists of a headset and handheld device that rapidly assesses the player’s symptoms, including cognitive function, balance and eye movements.

UCLA, Los Angeles, CA—UCLA and Architected Materials, Inc. are developing a new energy-absorbing microlattice material for improved helmet performance.  They are developing a material to be used as a new under-helmet liner that would absorb significantly more energy than current designs and therefore better protect the brain.  Through a collaboration of material designers, mechanical impact experts, and neuroscientists, they will utilize a new 3D printing platform to develop real-time responsive helmet technology.

The University of Miami, Miami, FL—The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and Neuro Kinetics, Inc., is developing a portable eye-goggle that gathers and measures precise eye movements.  The I-Portal® PAS goggle will assist in identifying mild traumatic brain injury in real time, leading to more accurate concussion diagnosis. This advanced research into traumatic brain injuries has received funding support from the U.S. military at the Army Medical Research and Materials Command and the Department of Defense Hearing Center of Excellence.

University of Washington, Seattle, WA– Together with commercial partner, VICIS, Inc., the UW team is developing a revolutionary football helmet.  The helmet boasts a novel impact absorbing structure that mitigates forces likely to cause concussion.  The UW/VICIS team is built with thought-leading neurosurgeons, mechanical engineers, and business leaders committed to using science to protect athletes.

Viconic Sporting, Inc., Detroit, MI—Viconic’s research is focused on developing an underlayer for synthetic turf systems that will make fields safer for those who play on them.  Viconic’s technology is widely used for impact management in the automotive and sporting industries and in the U.S. Military. Viconic will further explore the relationship between optimized head impact protection and the frequency of lower limb injuries in an effort to provide the synthetic turf industry a tool to specify systems that maximize player safety and minimize system costs.

University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH—University of New Hampshire researcher Erik Swartz will lead a study to evaluate the effectiveness of a helmet-less tackling training system called the HuTTTM Technique.  Proposed as an intervention for head impact prevention in high school football, this technique emphasizes proper tackling and blocking technique using closely supervised drills where players participate without their helmets and shoulder pads. UNH will investigate whether regular implementation of the HuTTTM technique results in player behavior change and reduces injury risk by reinforcing proper technique when players go into full-equipment play.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “Each of these seven winners will help advance the science towards our shared goal of making sports safer.  New materials, equipment designs and technology breakthroughs will better protect athletes, no matter what sport they play.  We are looking forward to supporting their next stages of development.”

Under Armour Founder and CEO Kevin Plank said, “By partnering with the NFL and GE, we have created a dynamic forum with the Head Health Challenge II that energizes people to join our pursuit of breakthrough solutions and empowers these innovators with substantial financial support to fund their ideas.”

For more information about the Head Health Challenge, including information on the Challenge II judges, visit www.headhealthchallenge.com.

Watch the winners’ videos:

Army Research Laboratory: www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRE0UtnnqJQ

Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology: www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oalhVkd3bQ

UCLA and Architected Materials, Inc.: www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkjZdbKMviI

The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Neuro Kinetics, Inc: www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dmICd4lJ9A

University of Washington and VICIS, Inc.: www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOhaicBRj9c

Viconic Sporting, Inc.: www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nOx_28nIDY

University of New Hampshire: www.youtube.com/watch?v=SiLvd2-SxXc

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Youth Football Study Receives $3.8 Million from National Institutes of Health

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has received a $3.8 million, five-year grant from the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health, to continue studying the effects of head impacts in youth league football.

“While there has been increasing interest in football head injuries at the professional, collegiate and high school levels, little data is available for children who play in youth leagues,” said Joseph Maldjian, M.D., professor of radiology at Wake Forest Baptist and principal investigator of the study. “Our goal is to help make youth football a safer activity for millions of children by having a better understanding of how repeated hits to the head affect a child’s brain.”

The Imaging Telemetry and Kinematic Modeling in Youth Football (iTAKL) study will use a three-pronged approach employing imaging, cognitive testing and biomechanical data to increase understanding of pediatric mild traumatic brain injury.

This project builds on recent research conducted at Wake Forest Baptist and integrates neuroinformatics work and computational modeling techniques developed by Maldjian and Joel Stitzel, Ph.D., chair of biomedical engineering at Wake Forest Baptist and co-principal investigator of the NINDS-funded study.

Maldjian said the study is expected to enroll 100 to 130 children ages 8 to 12 who play organized football in the Winston-Salem area. Sensors placed inside players’ helmets will measure head impacts during all practices and games throughout a full season.

Study participants will undergo pre- and post-season cognitive testing and imaging with MRI and magnetoencephalography (MEG), a non-invasive technique that maps brain activity by measuring the magnetic fields generated by the brain’s neurons. If a player experiences a clinical concussion during the season, the same testing and imaging will be conducted as soon as possible after the diagnosis, Maldjian said.

The Wake Forest Baptist researchers have partnered with Gerard Gioia, Ph.D., division chief of neuropsychology at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., for analysis of the cognitive data.

The research team hopes that the long-term benefit of the iTAKL study will be objective data that will help equipment designers, researchers and clinicians better prevent, mitigate, identify and treat head injuries.

Partial support for the initial study, which collected data from 50 youth league players during the 2012 season, was provided by the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma.

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