I certainly enjoy football and agree completely with the notion that engineers just might play some part in aiding efforts to solve problems with head injuries. Concussion Mitigation Technologies has a "yeoman" task ahead to perfect the device Charlie is describing.I applaud their efforts but there is one issue that won't be solved by engineers—I will explain.Several years ago I visited a client in Chicago.A firm that produces hydro-pneumatic tanks for the well water industry.I stayed at the Palmer House downtown. Very nice accommodations indeed.The second evening, which was Thursday, I headed to my room to get dressed for dinner; jumped on the elevator, pushed the button for the third floor. Doors close—almost!Then, they open again to allow three players from the Minnesota Viking to enter. The Bears played the Vikings on Sunday and the visiting team was also staying at the Palmer House.Folks, I drive a car smaller than any one of those guys.There were HUGE!As the doors closed, my significance eroded and when completely shut, I became a boy among men.This is the problem, the players aren't going to get any smaller and the hits, regardless of what body part is taken out, will not cease.Another thing, there are actually two hits, the first impact occurs when one player drives into another; the second impact occurs when the brain hits the inside surface of the skull. That's where the real damage occurs and I'm not too sure there is a real "fix" for the second impact.Just a thought.At any rate—great article Charlie.
ChasChas, you've raised a really good point here. I know that this company has brought its technology to neurological boards and even to the Mayo Clinic, but as an engineer, I will still want to see the empirical results after the prototypes are completed. When talking to the inventor, one of my responses was that it seemed like the best place for the airbags was inside the skull, rather than outside. He noted that one of the neurologists had said the same thing. I'm going to want to follow the development of this technology and hope to report on future developments in Design News.
Last time I heard airbags were deployed by an explosive device and I'm not sure running around with 7 or 8 little explosive triggered airbags triggered by accelerometer wrapped around one's head is very attractive. Too many variables for this engineer. I can see the Headlines " xxxx Killed when his helmet air bag deployed violently" NTSB ( or ATF?) investigating. Would every player have to have an explosives license? What about the felons? Would we need a new Government Agency to investigate? Another FDA type of Agency to "Approve" the devices? Would we let the NIST set the standards? Lots of high paying jobs there. i digress.
I think the option would be to go back to the old days when the helmet was more like a aviators helmet. The incentive for using one's head as a Battering Ram would certainley be less and the injuries much fewer. Put a weight and height limit on each man on the line just like Jockeys. Remember when the Race cars went too fast? they made the engines smaller. much better idea.
We are slowly becoming like the Ancient Romans when we have so much time on our hands that we go to the "Games" to keep our minds off of the dismal economic condition of our country. Football is not a sport anymore. There is no real skill involved. It is a brute force contest with men trying to injure each other rather than play like Sportsmen.
@jhankwitz: you're correct, head trauma doesn't cause Parkinson's Disease, which is what Mohammed Ali has.
My mom was a huge sports fan and LOVED the Oakland Raiders the 70's. That's the era when the Raider Nation was born. Sports have become progressively more violent, as almost all entertainment has. Seeing the technology attempt to catch up for the long-term safety of the players is a good step forward but other solutions are needed.
NRDW and others have made good points about solving the problem at the front end, preventing the trauma from reaching the brain. That can't happen with a new helmet. That changes in how the games are played.
Similar sentiments. Encase a player in kevlar body armor, increase his mass and train his muscles to develop devastating power, and he (almost always 'he') will feel invincible. He will be hurt, or he will hurt others. I've wondererd myself whether or not we should perhaps take American football back to ligher pads and leather helmets. The incidence of life-changing injury might be reduced. And the build of the best athletes in the sport might change to a better compostion for long-term health. Similarly, I've wondered whether or not we might greatly reduce death and injury in motor vehicles by staging the driver's platforrm out on the front bumper - good visibility and VERY exposed. OK, so we won't do that, but one has to admit that a driver's behavior would be different in that position from what it is when encased in the 4000 lb of steel armor and airbags of a modern SUV. I know this first hand. I drive from 'the front bumper position,' more or less, since I commute on my local roads on a bicycle. And I wear a helmet, although I think its most useful purpose is for the mounting of lights at a height that the SUV drivers can see when they're up close.
While I intuitively prefer the notion of improved passive protection, this is an interesting idea.
But as always, 'Watch what you wish for.' Putting on any protective gear actually encourages harder hits, resulting in our current situation; mutiple, repeated concussions with no apparent external injury.
Maybe we should go backwards with the equipment. Take off all that hard body padding, use a compliant helmet, then bruise and break a few bones now and then, in the process lowering the force of hits and incidence of head trauma. Those broken bones can take the place of unconciousness, in endless replays.
Another technological alternative, would be to actively measure the force of head trauma in real time, and pull participants from the game the moment they have received some numerical setpoint based on developing injury algorithms.
As long as we let boxers get into the ring, allow hockey players to drop their gloves, continue glorifying the big hit, etc., we really can't pretend we are really concerned about the long term results of head injury in sports.
Just being provocative, as my views on this are mutable and unsophisticated. Athletes are aware of the potentialities, and have to balance risks, vs big paydays.
Fifty-six-year-old Pasquale Russo has been doing metalwork for more than 30 years in a tiny southern Italy village. Many craftsmen like him brought with them fabrication skills when they came from the Old World to America.
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