Hedgehog design of football helmets to help minimize concussions

NFL Football helmets

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Recent advancements and research has been looking into every possible way to limit the intensity of an impact during a head injury, mostly through innovations in helmet designs. Some believed using a different padding might be beneficial , while others believed adding sensors to signal the coach or athlete of a suspected head injury might minimize risk and so on and so forth.

The basis of helmet selection should be the biomechanics of the injury. If we want to protect our brain from damage when engaging in contact , high impact sports, it is important to consider the element of acceleration and the angle at which it arrives. Our head/brain can tolerate immense speeds as long as they arrive gradually.What we can’t tolerate is when high speeds are inflicted suddenly. And the same goes for sudden decelerations, such as a fall onto the head, where the quickly moving head suddenly stops.

When this high sudden speed comes with a component of rotational force, things are even worse.

Keeping this in mind, Emily Kennedy decided to work on a football helmet design inspired by the quills of a hedgehog.

Like any other helmet, Emily wanted to modify the liner of the helmet to protect players from concussions.

After studying several other species of animals and birds that required qualities to absorb impacts to the head and body, Emily believed that angular impacts were only seen in hedgehogs as against in woodpeckers and bighorn sheep, that mainly deal with linear impacts.

As we all know that angular impacts are more dangerous than linear, Emily’s research at the lab at the University of  Akron inspired them to create a prototype for Hedgemon, a helmet made from the quills of a hedgehog. The initial work on the helmet started back in 2015, when the awareness about concussion had just started to become popular. The prototype was prepared using a 3D printer and they called it the “impact protection module”. The model was again tested at the ICS laboratories in Brunswick. The design consisted of squares of overlapping and pitched flexible polymer “quills”. This was modeled after the pattern of quills noted on hedgehogs.

After the testing, Emily stated, “We found in some areas we did better than other helmets but we are also lacking in some other areas”

The company has received patent claims and states they will continue to strive and work hard towards revising the model until it offers more safety and is more durable.

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