1 of 4 | Liquid shock absorbers in a helmet could be one key to reducing the impact of concussions suffered while playing football, according to a paper published Friday by Stanford University researchers. File Photo by Al Drago/UPI | License Photo
June 9 (UPI) -- Liquid shock absorbers in a helmet could be one key to reducing the impact of concussions suffered while playing football, according to a paper published Friday by Stanford University researchers.
A virtual model of a football helmet designed by scientists at Stanford's Camarillo Lab and containing 21 liquid shock absorbers, performed significantly better than existing equipment, according to the research published in the journal Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology.
The model was put through the evaluation protocol used by the National Football League and compared to four existing helmets.
Results showed the new helmet reduced the effects of impact by 33% when measuring Head Accelerate Response Metric or HARM score. The metric is used to evaluate helmet performance under impact.
Tests simulate impacts to the head at different speeds and in different locations.
Scientists took the further step of testing lower-impact hits because of evidence that the cumulative effect of hits that don't cause concussions can also have serious health effects.
The new design, which is being developed alongside a private company, produced a better score in 33 out of 36 scenarios conducted by scientists.
"The liquid technology offered an average improvement of over 30% for both low and high velocities," study author Dr. Yuzhe Liu said in the publication.
"It can dramatically reduce the loading on the brain that is experienced during all kinds of American football impacts."
Researchers have submitted a patent application for the design as they move to the next stage of development.
"The next step for our team is to translate the computer model to a physical prototype," the study's lead author Nicholas Cecchi, a PhD candidate at Stanford said in the publication.
"After successfully completing that, we would also be interested in conducting human studies that could demonstrate either a reduction in concussion incidence or an attenuation of impact severity for sub-concussive impacts. We have plans to expand our implementation of liquid shock absorbers to more areas of the helmet, and more helmeted applications, to further improve brain safety for a wide variety of populations."
Refinements and design improvements are still needed to the helmet's face mask and chinstrap.
Cecchi said the subject is personal for most of the research team.
"Most of the members of our team have a personal connection to traumatic brain injury and we care deeply about ensuring long-term athlete brain health. Concussion and repeated head impacts are still a major problem in contact sports, and we believe that improved helmet technology can play an important role in reducing the risk of brain injury."