Did you know that high school football players suffer 11.2 concussions for every 10,000 games or practices? Well, according to Frontline, many concussions can result in memory loss, which is very dangerous, especially at a young age. Long term consequences can be harmful, especially when high school and college football players are constantly hitting their heads, and tackling each other during the game. Officials of the game are supposed to make their best judgement of an athlete who may have a concussion, but their opinion cannot go as far as a medical opinion. This means that the responsibility falls under the coach, or the trainer from the school. The trainer should follow a specific protocol when it comes to diagnosing a concussion, and an athlete returning from a concussion. According to NCAA, a concussion is a change in brain function following a force to the head which can lead to temporary unconsciousness. The protocol for a school’s trainer is as follows:
- Having education on concussions
- Assess the athlete before they start playing
- Recognizing the symptoms of concussions (including spine injuries)
- Post concussion management, and taking concussion history, and specific needs into consideration
- Remain aware when the athlete returns to the activity, and make sure that they are okay to play (this is just as important as the evaluation that took place right after the concussion)
- Incremental increase of activity (for example, only walking one practice, and then build to running)
- Also, returning to school activity
Athletes (football players), coaches, and trainers need to be more informed on how to prevent concussions. Also, they need to be informed on how important it is to take the process slow, and make sure to stick to protocol. It is very important for the athlete to know the importance of “taking it slow.” Also parents need to be informed on how to treat their child, and know that concussions are very serious so their child should not be “sucking it up.” Since these are very common problems amongst competitive sports, everybody who is relevant to the game should be advised a lot more about concussions.
Some ideas that I came up with for athletes to be more protected while playing are:
- A more protective helmet
- More equipment that a player can wear to prevent injury
- Programs to help educate players, coaches, trainers, and parents on concussions
- Stricter protocol
- Protocol not just for trainers, but athletes, coaches, and parents
For my prototype, I first created a website that contained protocols for athletes to follow, but I found that there are websites that actually created protocols for athletes to follow.
I thought very hard (and long) about what I could create that could truly help football players. I asked my friend who played football what needed to be changed in the game. He himself, has suffered a numerous amount of concussions. He stated that there needed to be more padding in helmets. Guardian Caps is a company that makes padding on the outside of the helmet to prevent the shock and decrease the impact. He also said that his team must wear sensors in the helmets that sense how hard they get hit in the head, and if it passes a certain number, they are taken out of the game. He then said, that there should be a rule that makes hitting above the chest illegal in the game, and this should be taken very seriously, because it would definitely decrease the number of concussions. His last suggestion was to stop football, but that obviously will not happen.
With this information, I started thinking about what I could invent. I looked up football helmets, and they were they are built, what is inside of them, and how the structure of the helmet protect the head. According to Co.Design, football helmets will never be concussion proof. The website states that they are 85% as good as they are going to get. I researched what is inside of the top rated, and most famous helmet, a Ridell 360 helmet, and it features a lot of padding. Although there is a lot of padding, I actually expected a lot more padding than what was featured in the helmet. I also thought there would be more than just padding, and more technology in the helmet. Here is the link to a picture that shows the inside of a Ridell helmet. This is when I thought, wouldn’t a spring type of technology work inside of helmets? It seems understandable that springs AND padding would absorb shock and impact. Also, instead of teams having to buy a separate sensor for their helmets, there should be helmet with one already built in.
I thought that a helmet built with springs could make a huge difference. The helmet would be built as follows: plastic, then a lining of foam, then springs, and then padding. The springs would be attached to the thin lining of foam, and then the padding would be attached to the ends of the spring. When the athlete puts on the helmet, the springs would not be be totally contracted, or pressed down. But when they are tackled, the springs will contract and will be pushed against the padding. Putting this in words is confusing, so I have drawn this out for you:
I believe that putting springs in the helmet will put more resistance to a hit. The springs will decrease the impact, but giving the head a longer time to hit the edge of the helmet, and impacting with the player they hit or the player that hit them. The three levels of padding will absorb more shock, and will allow for a more comfortable, and tighter fit, since many football players do not fit their helmets correctly. At the front of the helmet, where the frontal lobe is located, a sensor will be put there that is barely noticeable. When they are hit, it will notify the coach via another device, or tablet, and it will measure the gravity force (g) of the hit.
Ridell’s new helmet, the Ridell Speedflex, has curved padding, and a way to customize the fit of the helmet. No helmet uses springs, and all helmets only use special padding. According to Aboutsports, the three top rated helmets actually do not use springs.
Although I cannot test this helmet, due to health hazards, I am sure that this helmet could make a difference. I am very surprised that no companies have tried to create a helmet with springs. If I could test this, I would use the same technology and trials that helmet companies undertake. According to Tested.com, helmet companies use crash test dummies. Researchers put sensors inside of the dummy’s head, and use a machine to replicate the different levels of impact to the head with the helmet on. They give a blow to every area of the head, and look at how high the gravity force of the hit is on the head. I would take this helmet to a school like Virginia Tech, where testing helmets occurs apparently. I wish I could actually test his helmet to see the results!