Despite all of the naysayers claiming that no form of padding or helmets will protect athletes and soldiers from traumatic brain injury, engineers are still toiling away every day trying to create padding that will at the very least cut the rate of TBI if not completely prevent it.
So far, evidence suggests that current helmets are no where close to doing enough to prevent NFL players or service members, but with the new technology being created, it is easy to think an efficient new form of padding may be coming in a few years.
One company, Unequal Technologies already has a set of liners on the market, which were initially marketed for Concussion Reduction Therapy, though they have removed that label following criticism. The lining is 1/8 in. thick, includes a layer of Kevlar, all hidden under a green rubbery layer, and the lining has a sticky side so it can be applied over pre-existing padding.
Unequal Technologies’ linings have been used by numerous NFL players including Michael Vick and James Harrison, and they claim it has cut their concussion rates a huge amount. Harrison even says it has completely prevented concussions for him.
Troy Fodemski, an engineer from Colorado Springs, has come up with a decidedly more high tech solution: a football helmet lined with sensors that would measure the intensity and location of the impact, setting off tiny airbags to protect the head. Design World Online says the “smart helmet”, as he calls it, is lined with 75 airbags, which are intended to precisely cushion the place of the impact.
These helmets have yet to be proven effective in any sort of lab testing, so whether or not they actual prevent damage to the brain is up to debate. Either way, experimentation is what leads to innovation. Even if these helmets are found to not be as effective as the players using them seem to believe, they will be part of the path to safer helmets and sports.