Today’s health and safety news around football:
* Sports Illustrated examined this week’s Popular Science report on helmets development, talking to University of Tennessee’s David Halstead, who leads the Sports Biomechanics Impact Research Laboratory. His group helped to design the current football helmet used by most teams.
Now, this is where things get a little perverse. Protecting our heads from the linear impact has made the rotational accelerations a problem we have to worry about. “If I don’t have a helmet on and my head hits the ground, I have an oozing skull fracture and no one cares how many radians my head rotates at because I have a life-threatening or life-ending event,” Halstead says. “But if I have a helmet on, the helmet manages that energy, I only get 30gs from the impact. But then I have 6,000 radians/sec2 of sheer force. The helmet is just along for a ride, because the real problem is the motion prior to and after impact.”
As for the Swiss firm that said it is creating the “helmet that can save football,” Halstead seems skeptical.
If successful, all of these models will dissipate plenty of the g-forces of a linear impact straight to the head, but will do nothing to alleviate the rotational acceleration of the head. With the MIPS helmet, there is a claim of a reduction in rotational acceleration, however, that assumes the axis of rotation is the center of the head, spinning like in a scene from The Exorcist. But, as I wrote above, it’s not. The rotational acceleration that causes concussions happens from the neck. They’re solving a problem that’s not actually the problem. For instance, the MIPS helmet would be useless preventing a concussion from a shoulder-to-shoulder hit that causes the head to whip back and forth. “You don’t have to hit your head to get these injuries,” Halstead says, “Let me repeat that. You don’t have to hit your head to get these injuries. So how is a helmet going to prevent them since I don’t have to hit my head to get them?”
* The Dallas Morning News wrote that linebacker Ernie Sims is recovering from his sixth concussion — and it may be more.
* The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said running back Alex Green could sit this Sunday with a concussion that wasn’t apparent until a day after last Sunday’s game.
* SI.com reported that Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy will return to the starting lineup after missing four games with a concussion.
* The Acronym wrote about the concussion research ongoing at the University of Pittsburgh.
– Bill Bradley, contributing editor