The bone crushing hits that have always been part of football lore come with some consequences.
While the popularity of football is unquestionable, the overall safety of the sport has led to boycotts, lawsuits and declining participation and has left leagues and organizations scrambling to find ways to reduce or better identify the amount of concussions.
Researchers at Brigham Young University have created a nano composite smartfoam that can be placed inside of a football helmet and accurately test the impact and power of hits taken throughout the course of a game or practice via an electrical signal.
The foam measures the impact of a hit and sends the data wirelessly to the tablet or device on the sidelines, enabling a coach to know within seconds how hard a player has been hit and whether or not they should be concerned about a possible concussion.
“The standard measurement systems on the market today directly measure the acceleration but just measuring the acceleration is not enough and can even be erroneous,” BYU mechanical engineering Ph.D. student, Jake Merrell said in a statement. “Our XOnano smartfoam sensors measure much more than just acceleration, which we see as a vital key to better diagnose head injuries.”
The foam is compressed with nickel nano-particles that create static electric charge when it rubs against the foam. The charge is then collected through a conductive electrode in the foam that is measured by a microcomputer and transmitted to a computer or device.
The foam can replace the standard foam used in football helmets and measure a composite of acceleration, impact energy and impact velocity to determine impact severity and location of an impact.
The team found the new smartfoam is about 90 percent accurate during testing.
The helmet could be a game changer, as no organization has been able to successfully measure the impact energy and velocity of a collision, two data points necessary to accurately measure whether a player is at risk of a concussion. When a player is hit hard the voltage spikes, while smaller hits result in reduced spike in voltage.
The study was published in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering.