In December a movie titled “Concussion”, staring Will Smith will be released in theaters, chronicling the work and bravery of Dr. Bennett Omalu, who first discovered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) as the consequence of repeated blows to the brain in football and attempts by the National Football League (NFL) to deny any causal link.
In a word. No.
A better question might be “Can Helmets Prevent Brain Injury?” Same answer – No.
It is not currently possible to develop a helmet that can protect all persons under all foreseen and unforeseen circumstances. But, given current medical understanding of head and brain injuries as well as 21st Century advanced materials, it is certainly possible to protect most people from life-threattening brain injuries under foreseen circumstances.
Helmets are actually intended to protect against blunt trauma injuries to the head. They are not specifically designed to prevent brain injuries.
The mechanisms which cause head and brain injuries are quite different. Forces associated with linear accelerations are responsible for visible injuries, such as lacerations, contusions and skull fracture. Whereas, brain injuries, including concussions, axonal injury and subdural hematoma are caused by forces associated with angular / rotational accelerations. When the head impacts a surface, the skull may come to an abrupt stop, but inertia acting on the brain will cause it to continue to move This inertia strains the nerves and blood vessels of the brain, causing injuries. The type of injury is dependent on the magnitude of this strain and the time duration over which it acts on the brain.
Helmets may indeed reduce the rotational forces acting on the brain. But since helmets are not currently certified according to their ability to protect against brain injury the level of protection is not standardized. Hence, it is possible to sustain catastrophic brain injuries, even while wearing a helmet.
I have performed extensive biomechanical testing of helmets for various applications, including military, motorcycle, football, skiing / snowboarding and cycling. My testing involves measurement of both linear and angular accelerations, thereby characterizing helmets in terms of their ability to protect against head and brain injuries. Results vary substantially between manufacturers that offer helmets for particular applications and between applications. Based on my testing to date, I can report that certain football helmets seem to outperform helmets in other categories in terms of their ability to protect against head and brain injuries.
Much research has been conducted to understand and quantify biomechanical thresholds for various head and brain injuries, including skull fractures, concussions, axonal injury (damage to nerve fibers in the brain) and subdural hematomas (bleeding in the brain). Why then don’t all helmet manufacturers strive to provide necessary protection?
There are certain intrinsic or personal factors that might increase one’s risk of head and brain injury, but for the rest of us, why do helmets provide inadequate protection against life-threatening head and brain injuries during reasonable or foreseen use?
One example of this is the life-threatening brain injury which former Formula One superstar, Michael Schumaker sustained when he fell while skiing and impacted a rock. It has been reported that Mr. Schumaker was only skiing at about 13mph when he fell and the likelihood of impacting a fixed object while skiing, such as a tree or rock is certainly not unforeseen. So why did his helmet fail to provide necessary protection?
Advanced materials certainly exist to provide required protection for normal persons, including Mr. Schumaker and many other unfortunate victims, under normal or foreseen circumstances. As end-users, we must demand that regulatory organizations require helmet manufacturers meet standards that protect persons who are not otherwise at heightened risk from head and brain injuries due to foreseen circumstances.
I had the privilege to present my research on football helmets as part of the Keynote address at the National Instrument conference in Austin, TX this week. The audience of 5,000+ attendees learned about my research into biomechanics of the brain.
It has been said that helmets cannot prevent concussions. I disagree.
As a biomechanist I have dedicated my career to studying the biomechanics of brain injuries. There are two key mechanical forces that give rise to head and brain injuries (1) linear forces, which are responsible for visible injuries, including bruising and skull fractures, and (2) rotational forces, which cause invisible injuries, such as concussion and brain injury.
Since helmets are currently designed to pass testing standards that focus on linear forces only, it is no surprise that helmets have limited benefit in preventing concussions. Through advances in medicine we have learned that concussions can potentially have life-long neurological consequences, including memory impairement and personality changes / behavioral effects.
Over the past years I have developed and validated a testing method to evaluate helmets in terms of their ability to protect against both linear and rotational forces. Using this apparatus I characterized football helmets, results of which have been submitted to Science for publication.
Based on lessons learned from my biomechanical evaluation of various sports helmets, I have devised a matrix of shear-thickening non-Newtonian materials. A prototype helmet was constructed using this matrix liner, results of which show that rotational forces that cause concussion and other brain injuries are reduced by up to 50% compared to a leading football helmet, while also reducing linear forces.
It is my goal and my passion to work with leading helmet companies to make this technology available to players and sports participants of all aged to enhance their protection against brain trauma. I am looking to collaborate with one manufacturer in each sport to offer an exclusive license patent-pending technology.
John Lloyd of Lloyd Industries, Inc. announced today that football head injuries and concussions can be reduced up to 50 percent with their new helmet safety breakthrough.
San Antonio, FL – Dr.John Lloyd PhD of Lloyd Industries, Inc. announced their latest breakthrough in football helmet safety today. The unique new helmet technology promises to provide up to 50 percent more protection against football head injuries and concussions. The technology has wide application and can be used in every kind of helmet from baby helmets to military helmets, and for all athletes at risk of concussion and head injuries such as football players, cyclists, skiers, snowboarders, skateboarders, hockey players, baseball players, lacrosse players, boxers, soccer players, equestrian / horse-riding sports, such as polo and horse racing, as well as motorcycle and race car drivers.
Recent medical research documents found that concussions and cumulative head impacts can lead to lifelong neurological consequences such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease known as CTE and early Alzheimer’s.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, estimates 1.6 – 3.8 million sport-related brain injuries annually in the United States. Of these 300,000 are attributed to youth football players, some of whom die from their injuries every year – a tragedy difficult for their mothers and families to recover from.
The severity of the issue touching both the nation’s youth and professional athletes has led to thousands of lawsuits and Congressional Hearings. Growing concern has spread to the White House where President Obama recently spoke at the Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit.
The Lloyd Industries research team, led by renowned brain injury expert, Dr. John Lloyd, has worked for years on their project to help make sports safer. A controversial subject, some opponents have stated that concussion prevention is impossible. Dedicated to saving lives and preserving brain health, Dr. Lloyd and team persevered with their work leading to this new innovation. “Our results show that forces associated with concussion and brain injury are reduced up to 50% compared to similar testing with a leading football helmet,” said Dr. John Lloyd, Research Director.
“The patent-pending matrix of non-Newtonian materials will not only benefit football, but can be utilized in all sports helmets as well as military, motorcycle and even baby helmets to improve protection and dramatically reduce the risk of brain injuries,” reported Dr. Lloyd.
The materials are inexpensive, and produce a helmet that is considerably lighter and more comfortable than a traditional helmet. Two additional applications of this new safety technology include medical flooring especially in hospitals and nursing homes or child play areas , as well as vehicle interiors.
About Lloyd Industries, Inc.
Lloyd Industries, Inc., located in San Antonio, Florida, is a research and development company focused on the biomechanics of brain injuries. The company was founded in 2004 by John D. Lloyd Bio, Ph.D., CPE, CBIS, Board Certified Ergonomist and Certified Brain Injury Specialist. He has also provided expert witness services nationwide for over 20 years in the fields of biomechanics, ergonomics and human factors, specializing in the biomechanics of brain injury, including sport and motorcycle helmet cases, slips and falls, motor vehicle accidents and pediatric head trauma. Lloyd Industries is open to licensing with manufacturers to bring this much-needed technology to market for the protection of sports participants and athletes of all ages. For additional information visit : http://drbiomechanics.com/sports-helmet-football-helmets/new-helmet-technology/ or call 813-624-8986.
I recently attended and presented at the 66th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, hosted by the City of Philadelphia. During my meeting I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes talking to retired football player, Ben Utecht.
Ben Utecht is perhaps best known playing for the Indianapolis Colts (2004-2008), His best season was the 2006 season, with 37 receptions for 377 yards. In the 2006 postseason, Utecht had 5 receptions for 41 yards. He would then go on to help the Colts win Super Bowl XLI.
Utecht, suffered five known concussions during his football career. By late 2011, at only 30 years old, he was experiencing memory loss, attributable to his football-related brain injuries.
Ben and I spoke about the effects of his football-related brain injuries. He described several events, which concerned him, including loss of any memories of a good friend’s wedding. Though memories of past events continue to evade him, now retired from football, he is thankful that he is able to enjoy family life with his wife and daughters without further consequences, though he is concerned about the possibility of effects later in life.
Utecht has said that he might have quit football earlier had he known of the potential risks of multiple concussions. Utecht describes himself as an advocate for awareness about traumatic brain injury.
I described my research regarding biomechanical evaluation of football helmets, which Ben found very interesting. He was especially excited about the prospect of developing a new generation of football helmets that promise improved protection against concussion and the long-term consequences of football-related brain injuries for football players of all ages.
Ben is also
Helmets are designed with one purpose, that is to prevent blunt force trauma to the head. But, what about the brain?
There is no doubt that ski helmets can and do prevent death. Take the recent accident of Formula One superstar, Michael Schumacher, who fell headfirst while skiing off-piste in the French Alps on December 29, 2013. Had he not been wearing a helmet when his head struck a rock, the result would be far more grave.
Another tragic example is that all Sally Franklyn, an avid skier and writer, who tumbled 800 feet two years ago. Fortunately, Sally was also wearing a helmet which likely saved her life. However both Sally and Michael will have a lifelong scars of traumatic brain injury.
Dr. John Lloyd, a biomechanists from Tampa has dedicated his career to the study of traumatic brain injury, John recently conducted a study on the protective properties ski helmets. While results show that wearing a ski helmet will dramatically improve protection against potentially fatal injury, findings also show that ski helmets may not provide sufficient protection against traumatic brain injury. The mechanism that causes skull fracture is quite different from that which causes the traumatic brain injury.
We have a great physicist, Professor Holbourn from Cambridge University in England, to thank for his 1943 paper on the mechanisms of head injuries. Dr. Holbourn showed, using a bowl full of Jell-O, that forces associated with linear acceleration all likely to give rise to focal head injuries, such as skull fractures. Whereas rotational forces are those more likely to give rise to brain injuries including concussion and brain bleeding. This is because rotating a bowl of Jell-O, the Jell-O moves greatest toward the center of the bowl
As to whether or not a better helmet can be designed to protect both the skull from fracture and the brain from traumatic injury, Dr. Lloyd says absolutely. In fact, within the scope of his research into helmet protection, Dr. Lloyd’s findings show that football helmets provide far greater protection of the head and brain from traumatic injury then do ski helmets.
Upon impact linear and rotational forces act on the head. Rotational forces being tangential to the linear forces. If a tangential force acts on a material such as EPS foam we would expect little, if any, deformation of the material since such materials, as shock absorbing materials, are designed to mitigate linear forces acting directly on them.