Fodemski's solution would mitigate damage to the brain by firing the airbags when the brain is about to hit the inside of the skull. The company says that its airbags would provide inward force, serving to nudge the brain back to neutral sooner, rather than having to wait for eight or 10 more collisions while the brain moves back and forth. "All leading theories say that the axons -- the wires between the neurons -- are tearing," Fodemski said. "In some cases, the axons can regenerate or repair. In some cases, they can't. But eventually, you exhaust the brain's capacity to repair the neuro-pathways."
A test recording of the system in operation shows which bags are opening and closing (on left of screen) and which transducers are being actuated (right side). Upper right displays the execution of assembly language. (Source: Concussion Mitigation Technologies LLC)
Fodemski's idea builds on earlier work done at Virginia Tech and at other universities, where engineers fitted helmets with accelerometers and associated electronics to monitor impact on players. The smart helmets showed that some particularly hard hits resulted in accelerations of 100 Gs or more to the head.
Fodemski said he doesn't yet know what his football helmets will cost, but it's believed that they could run several times as much as today's helmets, which often cost between $175 and $300. Concussion Mitigation Technologies also hopes to place the technology in other sports, such as hockey, baseball, and skiing, as well as in the military. Initial prototypes for football are expected to be ready in about six months. "It's time to start thinking bigger about this issue," Fodemski said. "We're talking about the brain, which is an organ that can't be replaced."
What a great idea and so necessary, for both professional atheletes, our kids, as well as military and other rescue personnel. Clearly the problem is getting the cost down so it can be produced and commercialized at an affordable price point. I would think the NHL or NFL would buck up for the helmet, regardless of the expense. But in order to get it past the professional sports world, it's going have to become far more accessible. That's where they need to spend time on the engineering.
Beth, good point. I think this is the way to go, though. Let the professionals, for whom a $1000 helmet would not be a burden, bear the cost of engineering and proof of concept. If it works in that arena, then others will decide it is worthwhile and the volumes will go up. Let's hope it works, becuase this is becoming a problem we are aware of and that is really preventable.
Completely agree with you Naperlou. Human brains are not architected to withstand that kind of force. I'm sure the military has similar technology already, but what about this type of sensor-based airbag technology for helmets worn by soldiers/reporters in the field that are subject to IED attacks. Folks like journalist Bob Woodruff could have been a beneficiary.
I agree, Beth. I can't imagine that any soft body part is capable of standing up to 100 G's without sustaining some damage. Most amazing to me was the revelation that the brain can snap back and forth as many as 11 times from one hit. It's no wonder that many of these athletes, after years of repeated hits, get punchy.
I should be interesting to see how this works. Some of the impact you see in the NFL seems so rough that even air bags in the helmet wouldn't be able to cut out all of the brain bumping. I guess if you could mitigate the impact even somewhat, it would help.
Charles, thanks for the vital info, even we are looking for a similar head protecting bag for our official football team. Last year during the state level competition, two of our employs get collide with opposite team members and get injured in head. So the protective air bags can be used to avoid such traumas. Hope it will be available in market very soon.
Beth, I think it's very necessity to cover the head while playing football and hockey. The chance for collision and traumas are very high in these types of games. Now in Cricket they are using helmets. I just wondered why such initiatives are not taken so far by International football and Olympic Associations for the saftey of players.
It's probably viewed as sacrilege by some, but professional football is an entertainment industry. It contributes value to society... how?
So apart from the notion that we could live without subjecting players to those 80G shocks...and all that implies... let's consider the stimulus-response problem:
You don't know from what direction or when a shock load will occur, nor do you know its magnitude. Yet, you would presume to deliver a series of countervailing forces from up to 80 small airbags, to offset the attack vector?
With all due respect to mems sensors and uP code... there would seem to be a better than even chance that the airbag equipped helmet would deliver a series of lagging blows to the wearer, extending the initial trauma in the time domain, and scattering it spatially.
It might be that this could reduce the single vector shock materially, but produce an extended "rope-a-dope" trauma from various angles. But would this be progress?
At some point, I think we need to recognize that if hitting brick walls hurts, one should stop doing it. And if hitting brick walls is considered entertainment... asking why might be in order.
Great point about football being entertainment. The sport, like hockey, finds that spectators like more action, or rather big hits and violence, better than a regular game. So, it appears that the violence in the game is partially driven by rules designed to maximize revenues. Unfortunately, although I've read this in newspapers I haven't assembled the necessary backup, so this is hearsay as of now.
Also, the problem may be far more insidious than a big hit as brain injury may be a result of long term shock, much of it minor, starting from childhood. Repetitive Head Injury Syndrome mentions that this is not well known.
I was talking to a friend who is a big fan, and a season ticket holder to the Bears, and he mentioned that this long term minor shock issue has been discussed by ESPN commentators, which means that it is well known within the sport. This implies that while 80G shocks are the concern of this developer, the ultimate problem may be a long history of much more subtle shocks. Again, I have not researched this, so take this as hearsay.
Therefore, the real question may indeed be why do we support and promote entertainment that has a high probability of resulting in brain damage, even if more subtle than that that lead Dave Duerson to take his own life. Remediating trauma is a good thing, but not necessarily so that people can make a lot of money at the expense of others or even themselves.
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