Popular Science this month brings us a look at the current state of the Football Helmet, concussions, sub-concussive impacts and a possible future for the helmet.
I do have some problems with the article. It opens with a sort of cloak-and-dagger setup directed at helmet manufacturers, which I find unnecessary and ridiculous. If a given technology proves itself to be better at preventing concussions and impact related brain damage, then helmet manufacturers are going to embrace that. If they haven't thusfar, it's because their data leads them to believe it is honestly not the best way to protect players.
There is some credence to the idea that manufacturers would like to protect themselves by supporting the work they've done in the past, certianly, but they're not going to ignore relevant, reliable modern data that shows better, safer ways to go. That doesn't protect them. It shoots them in the foot and opens them to more problems later.
Once you get past the bizzare, attack laced opening, though, the rest of the article is a pretty good, pretty cool look at some new technology that might help win the battle for a better football helmet. I was aware that new research showed that twisting and rolling of the brain within the skull was much more damaging than it simply bouncing around inside, and that there had been some work on developing helmets that took advantage of this knowledge, such as giving them a stretchy "skin" that would reduce inter-crainial rotation.
I had not heard of this new technology, though, which strikes me as simple and highly effective. By placing the helmet on a somewhat independently articulated skull cap, of sorts, it can protect against heavy blows while still moving and sliding independently of the head, reducing twisting.
I'm really glad to see some innovative thinking coming to helmet design. I would like to see the NCAA and the NFHS (not to mention the NFL), do some studies on the effectiveness of this new technology. What do you think?