As sports fans are likely aware, the National Football League is trying to reduce the risk of concussion among players, part of which involves input from noted authorities on helmet safety. That means input from auto racing, and design elements race helmets in NFL helmets is already making a difference.
Researchers looking to tech from race helmets in NFL equipment
The National Football League is concerned about football players suffering concussions. The negative effects of repeat concussions is incontrovertible. A number of former players have committed suicide due to the mental effects, including, according to Reuters, Ray Easterling, Dave Duerson and San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots great Junior Seau.
Help is being enlisted for NFL helmet design. Some input is coming from a sport that’s been on this ball, so to speak, for decades, namely auto racing.
A helmet design by former driver and safety guru Bill Simpson is gaining acceptance by NFL players, according to AutoWeek, so tech from race helmets in NFL games is already here.
Racing benefits more than just football; safety improvements from racing also get implemented in road cars and a lot of the stuff that keeps one safe in, say, a new Camry from Magic Toyota of Edmunds, Washington, was born on the track.
Simpson is the last word in race safety. Indy drivers have worn Simpson helmets since 1979, according to his company’s website, and fire-proof race suits are often called “Simpson suits,” according to Popular Science. Former driver Chip Ganassi, now owner of several race teams and co-owner of Simpson’s helmet venture, credited a Simpson helmet with saving his life in a crash, according to AutoWeek.
Some say a Simpson is worn by “Top Gear” driver The Stig.
Simpson got the idea watching Indianapolis Colts receiver Austin Collie getting carted off the field after a collision in 2010. He had working prototypes available by pre-season in 2011 and used his contacts, including Simpson’s friend Tom Moore, former Colts offensive coordinator, to get some players to use them. Then-Colts center Jeff Saturday and Collie used them, as did then-Atlanta Falcon Tyler Horn.
Details are scant, as it’s all proprietary, but Bill Simpson’s helmet uses a lightweight materials like carbon fiber and Kevlar and unique padding design, according to Sports Illustrated. One of his helmets weighs 2 pounds; normal helmets weigh 5 pounds. No players that wore Simpson helmets in games suffered concussions. Design from race helmets in NFL helmets has potential.
Not the only one
Simpson’s design isn’t the only use of design elements from racing making it into the NFL. A company called Xenith, according to the Boston Globe, lines the inside of football helmets with small inflated pads which act like airbags in collisions and players have reported good results. The man behind Xenith, Vin Ferrara, a former Harvard quarterback, got the idea from a bottle of nasal rinse. The bottle had bellows that would depress if squeezed lightly but got more rigid when squeezed harder – a lot like a shock absorber.
Dean Sicking, the engineer who invented the crushable SAFER Barrier after the death of Dale Earnhardt, according to ESPN, is also working on a football helmet design. SAFER barriers use steel tubing and hard foam to absorb impacts throughout a larger area. As they flex, a car slows. Sicking believes current NFL helmets are far too rigid; they have little give, meaning far more “G” forces are created in an impact. Less “G” force, fewer concussions. He’s working on one with a little more “give.”
Tech from race helmets in NFL equipment, or from racing, might make America’s game a bit safer.
Boston Globe: http://bostonglobe.com/business/2013/01/21/football-helmet-absorbs-hits-deter-concussions/C7SXkPtyPSL82wYZ6bWZ4L/story.html
Simpson Race Products: http://simpsonraceproducts.com/milestones/