Say a linebacker hits a running back and they
have a head to head collision. I’m very interested in, what can cause injury to the brain as
a result of an impact like an impact on a football field, even when a person is wearing
a helmet. The force and the energy of that impact are transmitted to the helmet to the
surface of the helmet. That impact is transmitted through the helmet as a pressure wave or a
stress wave. It eventually enters the skull and enters the brain. The impact also has
an impulse associated with it, so there’s energy carried forward as well and that energy
is transmitted through the helmet, into the skull, and into the brain. The purpose of
the helmet is to try to mitigate or lessen both that pressure, and that impulse. The
problem has been that everyone is focused on the force of an impact and only the force
of an impact and measuring that. And they found that when they measure the force of
the impact by measuring it on the surface of the skull right instrumenting the helmet,
they can’t correlate that with brain injury. And the reason is force is not the whole story.
Force is only part of the story. You need to also dissipate energy. If the impulse is
not mitigated then all of that energy of the impact goes into the brain and the brain has
to dissipate that energy and it does that by deforming. Current helmets essentially
have the capability to dissipate some energy under certain conditions, but in an impact
event they aren’t. Our technology is a multilayered polymer structure. Each of the layers is chosen
to work together to mitigate impulse and force. We have a 2D prototype of a skull and a brain
and a helmet, we put a speckled pattern on the brain, and then we impact it at a known
velocity with a known amount of energy and with a high speed camera focused on it we
capture the deformation of the brain, how that speckled pattern moves. So we can switch
out different helmet designs and directly look at how they affect the brain accelerations.
So we are testing our current prototype against existing helmet designs and our preliminary
data showed that our design can reduce rotational accelerations and translational accelerations
over existing helmet designs. If you mitigate all of the harmful effects of that event,
you are making a safer armor or a safer helmet or a safer padding. And so, our design tackles
all of those. It tackles the pressure, it tackles the impulse, it mitigates all of the
harmful effects of the blast or impact as much as possible in an application that needs
to be used over and over and over again. You can dissipate energy by fracture and plastic
deformation, that’s sort of the idea behind a bike helmet. If you’re wearing a bicycle
helmet and you fall and you hit your head and the helmet cracks it dissipates energy
it protects your skull it protects your brain, you throw it away and you get a new helmet.
That’s not a practical solution in a football game. So we designed our helmet to optimally
dissipate the energy of an impact every time it’s hit, not just once, but every time it’s
hit.