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So, Whaddya Think? Opinion: Rethinking the Design of Football Helmets

So, Whaddya Think?

 My Opinion: Rethinking the Design of Football Helmets

by

David Lloyd

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

So Whaddya Think Brain th-4The reason for a hard helmet in American football is to prevent deaths from skull fractures. The attempts to make bigger and thicker helmets have been based on trying to absorb linear impact force, but that’s based on the faulty notion that linear impact force is related to brain injury (Condi, 2015).

It is the sudden rotation of the head that actually causes brain injury (Meaney, Morrison, & Bass, 2014). A bigger helmet “leverages” rotation, increasing the likelihood of brain injury (2016, January). We need to rethink helmet design entirely. I suggest using an artificial scalp (Aare, 2003), like the leather helmets from the 1930s (Stamp, 2012, October), with a springy, lightweight, carbon-fiber framework to absorb linear impact. The design should include guarding the mouth and chin.

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David Lloyd – Brain Injury Survivor

Another possibility would be a variation of the so-called “invisible helmet” (Haupt & Alstin, 2016), which is like the airbag in a car. Players would wear invisible-helmet-collars, which instantly expand to cushion the head upon impact. (While I think this could be a great idea for bicyclists, I suspect it would not work for football, but since it occurred to me just now, I thought I would include the idea.)

I would also put a couple of strategically placed, clear, and inexpensive disposable gelatin capsules in the helmet. These gelatin capsules would contain a bright-colored liquid dye in the center. When an impact is sharp enough to cause the gelatin capsule to release the dye, the capsule turns bright red (assuming a red dye was used) to indicate a possible brain injury. The moment a player’s dye-capsule breaks, that player is out of the game (possibly along with the opponent who hit the player). A light-sensor could trigger an electronic ID number to be broadcast instantly to officials, so an appropriate response could happen immediately. Every incident in which a dye-capsule is broken is recorded as a possible sub-concussive injury. Players with too many sub-concussive injuries can no longer play, regardless of apparent brain health.Gelatin Capsules.jpg

In addition, a smart phone-based application (Lathan, Spira, Bleiberg, Vice & Tsao, 2013) is used to test the player’s response times to a short series of tests, with scores compared with a baseline. Concussion is diagnosed on the field when the player’s test score is significantly different from his baseline. If a concussion is diagnosed, the player does not return to the field, and, at the discretion of the physician, the player may be treated with a neuroprotective drug, such as NeuroStat® (Campbell, Elmér, & Bronnegard, 2015), to prevent the death of neurons, which generally occurs before the symptoms of concussion are apparent.

th-1I think the Kevlar insert sounds like a very good idea. Put that layer next to the head, below the artificial scalp I suggested. This in turn is to be below a light weight, springy framework, which I imagined would absorb linear impact by rapidly changing shape and then dissipating the energy by vibrating. The artificial scalp layer, in addition to sliding to absorb rotational impact, would also insulate the player from damage due to the vibration energy.

The three most important issues are (1) detecting potential sub-concussive injuries when they happen and before they cause symptoms (via the gel-capsules), (2) protecting against skull-fracture, and (3) protecting against sharp rotation, which requires a helmet with a much smaller surface area.

Many studies (Kis, Saunders, Hove, & Leslie, 2004) over the years have concluded that protecting against linear impact is equivalent to protecting against rotational impact. If one reads only abstracts and conclusions from these studies, one may be led to believe rotational factors don’t need consideration. However, only recently have there been any attempts to measure rotational damage, and even in those cases, the tests actually measure linear impact from various angles. They assume it is possible to infer information about rotational impact from this information (Kis, Saunders, Irrcher, Tator, Bishop, & Hove, 2013).Concussion

I don’t believe a linear impact test provides any significant data regarding rotational injury to the brain. I think a meaningful test of rotational impact is with my dye-in-gelatin suggestion. It is simply not possible to design a laboratory test that can reliably measure all possible angles of force (Hernandez, Shull, & Camarillo, 2015) created in a multi-vector, real-situation impact. I have yet to see a meaningful test of damage caused by compression waves (Laksari, Wu, Kurt, Kuo, & Camarillo, 2015), which, depending on frequency, can be augmented by hard objects, such as helmets or even the skull itself. Create a clear-gel facsimile of a brain, add a few grapes to the gelatin to simulate denser areas of the brain, put it in a structure like a skull, wrap the skull in something analogous to skin and hair, and put THAT in a helmet. Then spin it, and drop it onto a fast-moving conveyor belt. Now count the fractures in the gelatin per cubic millimeter (using a microscope), and you will have BEGUN to create a meaningful model of what happens in a brain injury. It is likely that one cannot realistically study impact on the brain unless the artificial brain is connected by a neck to a body (Hernandez, Shull, & Camarillo, 2015).

I think attempting to reform the game would meet such extreme resistance that all kinds of misinformation would get published – obscuring the facts and preventing change. A better approach is to detect and track sub-concussive injuries before they compound to a level that threatens lives or affects mental performance.

Some are suggesting the elimination of football, but this “solution” makes no sense unless we eliminate all contact sports. I know boxing is much worse than football, in terms of the risk of brain injury. I’m pretty sure I could find evidence to indicate thatth-2 hockey and soccer are statistically more likely to cause brain injuries than football, but even basketball, track, wrestling, swimming, skating, ice skating, and even bicycling present similar dangers. [Actually, football is second only to cycling, followed by baseball and basketball for associated brain injuries (Sports-related Head Injury, 2014, August)]. In my mind, the greater danger to the collective health of the nation would be the elimination of these various sports (Devine, & Zafonte, 2009). Humans need to be active, and there is no way to eliminate the potential danger of living a healthy life.

 

So, Whaddya Think?

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Brain Injury Resources . . . . . . Will Smith’s Movie, Concussion, Based on True Story

Will Smith’s Movie, Concussion, Based on True Story 

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Brain th-2Concussion is scheduled to be in theaters in late December, but it is already making headlines (review and trailer). The National Football League (NFL) knows that its Achilles heel is the high risk of brain injury to its players, not only from documented concussions, which are likely to be far fewer in number than actual concussions, but also from the repeated sub-concussive hits, which many neurologists believe contribute to brain injury. Former players are concerned (video of the song Final Drive by former NFL star Kyle Turley), and current players are becoming concerned. Recently a promising rookie linebacker with the San Francisco 49ers quit after one season over the fear of brain injury.

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Concussion

Concussion is based on the true story of the discovery of the brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) by Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian pathologist who did the autopsy of Hall-of-Fame Pittsburgh Steelers center, Mike Webster. Dr. Omalu first saw CTE during his study of Webster’s brain. Webster was homeless, depressed, and suffering from dementia when he died at age 50. Dr. Omalu’s story, which is the basis of Concussion, is given in the PBS Frontline documentary League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis. I urge everyone to watch the documentary before seeing Concussion. The 2-hour PBS documentary is available online at no cost. In Concussion, Will Smith plays Dr. Omalu.

Omalu & Smith

Dr. Bennet Omalu & Will Smith

This movie may change what you think about American football and the NFL. Knowing that brain disease is a major problem for the future of the game, the NFL tried to discredit Dr. Omalu and his provocative work. The NFL had previously established a questionable committee of doctors to study mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBIs), otherwise known as concussions. The NFL committee published papers claiming that MTBIs, even multiple MTBIs, were not a problem for players. (The conclusions are contradicted by current data. Also, some scientists question the validity of the published studies.)

NFL LogoDr. Omalu thought that the NFL would be very interested in his data. Instead, the NFL’s MTBI committee immediately attacked Dr. Omalu and his findings. At one point, the committee tried to get Dr. Omalu to retract the paper. Going against the multibillion dollar NFL has a steep price. Dr. Omalu has stated that he wishes he had never discovered CTE.

To date, CTE has been found in 88 of 92 autopsied NFL brains (1, 2). The currently accepted way that CTE is identified is by studying the brain postmortem. The major criticism of the postmortem analyses that were done is that the brains came from former players who already showed signs of brain disease. In other words, the claim is that the sample is biased. Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist at Boston University’s CTE Center, studied most of the brains. She argues that the results would be extraordinary even in a biased sample.

AnnMcKeeMD1111

Dr. Ann McKee – neurolpathologist at Boston University

With a recent advance in technology, it seems that the bias criticism can soon be put to rest. Dr. Omalu is an author on a recent publication, in which neuroscientists from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and from the University of Chicago showed that CTE can be accurately diagnosed in a living person by a special PET (positron emission tomography) scan. If such scans were taken of all the current players, we would know if CTE is rare among players, as the NFL would like players and fans to believe, or if it’s relatively common, as Dr. Ann McKee believes.

Until that happens, we are left to decide about the risk of brain disease in players of American football on the basis of what we know. Concussion tells the little-known story of Dr. Omalu and the discovery of CTE. With this movie, we will be more informed and better able to evaluate the risk.

Omalu

Dr. Bennet Omalu – pathologist

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SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . . . . . . . National Hockey League Player Retires at 24 Because of Concussions

National Hockey League Player Retires at 24 Because of Concussions

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

newsboy-thFootball and hockey are the two sports that are responsible for the majority of concussions in athletes. A concussion is now known to be a brain injury and can be serious. More and more people are becoming aware of the possibility that a concussion may lead to a major life-change.Capitals_Predators_Hockey-09eb6

Previously I wrote about Chris Borland, a starting rookie linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL (National Football League) who quit after one season because of his concerns about brain injury.

Now, Patrick Wey is quitting the Washington Capitals in the NHL (National Hockey League) at a young age (24) 185618_ebbecause he had two concussions in 2014. Wey plans to substitute “educational interests” for hockey.

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Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.anim0014-1_e0-1

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SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . . . . . . . . Joe Namath – Football – Brain Injury

Joe Namath Speaks OUT About Brain Injury and Football

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Newsboy thJoe Namath, former star quarterback for the New York Jets and football legend, said that, now knowing the sport’s likely danger to the brain, he wouldn’t have played football.joe namath large

Namath’s wake up call happened when he saw a problem with his brain in a brain scan. It revealed that the right side was not getting enough oxygen, whereas the left side was normal. He was worried about the several concussions he had had, but he thought his growing forgetfulness was caused by old age.

Fortunately, after several months of rigorous treatment alg-joe-namath-jpg(1-hour sessions, 5 days a week) in a hyperbaric chamber, in which he was subjected to a high pressure of oxygen, a new scan indicated that both sides of Namath’s brain were normal. (Full story 1 and Full story 2 – with video)

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As I say after each post:

Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.anim0014-1_e0-1

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

If you like my blog, share it with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

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SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . . . . Portable Concussion Indicator

High-school Football Teams Test Portable Concussion Indicator

Newsboy thThere is growing concern about brain injuries arising from concussions, especially in young players. Research has shown that concussions, once thought to be harmless, actually injure the brain. In fact, a concussion is regarded as a form of TBI (mTBI, or mild TBI). (The term “mild” is deceiving because even some mTBIs can be life-threatening or can leave an individual with life-long mental deficits.)

A researcher has developed a scanner that can detect a player’s concussion during a game. It is being tested by four Texas high-school football programs. The scanner looks similar to binoculars, but it compares a possibly concussed player’s eye movements to the player’s normal eye movements taken earlier. (A possible concussion-causing hit is indicated by a microchip-containing sensor in the helmet.) The scanner is hooked up to a computer to quickly analyze the eye-movement data. A coach or trainer can readily determine if the player has experienced a concussion. New guidelines on when to return to play have been adopted by many schools to protect the player from further brain injury and to allow the traumatized brain to heal. (Full story.)

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

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My name is Michelle Munt and this is my story about surviving a brain injury and what I continue to learn about it. This is for other survivors and their loved ones, but also to raise awareness of what can happen to those in an accident. This invisible injury too often goes undiagnosed and it can be difficult to find information about it. I will talk about things that have helped me as I continue to recover and invite others to see if it works for them too.

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