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September 6, 2023

Liquid Football Helmets

NSF-supported researchers at Stanford have developed a football helmet with liquid shock absorbers.

Credit: U.S. National Science Foundation

In the world of contact sports concussions can be common, and repeated head impacts can have devastating long-term neurological consequences. But researchers are working on new kinds of helmets that may lessen the impact in the U.S. National Science Foundation's "Discovery Files."

Every year 15% of high school athletes are affected by concussions according to the CDC. These impacts can have severe long-term effects such as Chronic traumatic Encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disorder that is known to create behavioral and mood problems and can result in dementia.

NSF-Supported researchers at Stanford University in association with Savior Brain Inc. are working to create the next generation of head protection. Taking advantage of recent engineering advancements in the creation of liquid shock absorbers, the researchers were able to model a helmet that dramatically reduced the severity of impacts to the head by a third.

Author Nicholas Cecchi: "We need to choose a shock absorber that will give protection for all kinds of impacts."

The researchers' helmet with 21 liquid shock absorbers was demonstrated against an impact model made to replicate equipment used in the NFL's helmet test impact protocol. The model tested concussive and sub concussive impacts against the open-source models of 4 other popular helmets.

The results show a promising ability of liquid shock absorbers to dramatically change the impact performance in football helmets. This could provide a considerable reduction in brain injuries, pointing towards a safer future for athletes at all levels of play.

To hear more science and engineering news, including the researchers making it, subscribe to "NSF's Discovery Files" podcast.

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