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."
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.
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.
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.
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