Skip to content

Study of military helmets could provide insight to NFL

Steelers Helmet AP

A Pentagon study looking for ways to reduce the incidence of traumatic brain injuries for American troops, comparing the effectiveness of different kinds of military helmets as well as two designs of helmets worn in the NFL, led to a surprisingly simple finding: Making helmets slightly bigger by adding one-eighth of an inch of padding can make the people wearing the helmets significantly less susceptible to brain injuries.

That may lead to a change in the design of the helmets given to American soldiers, and the study could also provide useful information to the NFL. The researchers found that NFL helmets didn’t work as well as military helmets because they were more rigid and allowed force to be transferred to the head. Army helmets were found to absorb a larger amount of the force.

However, the unclassified version of the full report (PDF here) notes that military helmets and football helmets aren’t necessarily designed to protect against the same types of injuries. The study doesn’t necessarily find that the NFL should follow military guidelines on helmet designs.

“[I]n many football-relevant impact scenarios, the entire body mass of the player is driving the head into another object, and hence the impact energy that the pads must absorb may be greater,” the report says. “This could explain why the NFL pads tend to be both thicker and harder than the pads developed for the Army—they are designed for a different type of impact.”

So the study’s findings aren’t as simple as just recommending that the NFL make the padding in its helmets thicker. But as the NFL continues to make prevention of brain injuries on the field a high priority, these are the kinds of results that demand more research.

Permalink 29 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Rumor Mill, Sprint Football Live - Rumors, Top Stories
29 Responses to “Study of military helmets could provide insight to NFL”
  1. dwoofer says: Apr 25, 2011 11:20 AM

    Quick !! Rush one of those new helmets to Kurt Warner before he finishes his next round on “Dancing With The Stars.”

  2. burntorangehorn says: Apr 25, 2011 11:20 AM

    Using some of the WRAIR TBI research in development of better football helmets just seems like common sense.

  3. EJ says: Apr 25, 2011 11:25 AM

    With all the money the NFL rakes in, the players should already be safe as can be. They should have top of the line scientists, working in the most advanced labs. If you want to protect your money maker, you are going to have to give whatever it takes.

  4. ncsteeler says: Apr 25, 2011 11:33 AM

    They should add a layer of padding on the outside of the helmet as well. This might make players less likely to use the helmet as weapon and prevent a few other injuries from helmet to knee or helmet to ribs shots as well as from helmet to helmet hits.

  5. patpatriotagain says: Apr 25, 2011 11:34 AM

    is michael dukakis working for the nfl now?

  6. clintonportisheadd says: Apr 25, 2011 11:36 AM

    In a related development, ABATE and other similar groups are fighting the NFL in requiring mandatory helmet usage.

    “It’s a matter of personal freedom and liberty” said Sonny “Stumpy” Williams, a Harley rider and long time opponent of helmets. “In fact, you are more likely to get hurt while wearing a helmet than without one. Besides, you can’t look cool while wearing one!”

    Clay Matthews and Troy Polamalu could not be reached for comment….

  7. larzjg says: Apr 25, 2011 11:36 AM

    The rigidity of an NFL helmet is intended to give it a longer effective lifespan – I’d imagine you could have fewer brain injuries if it was like a bike helmet, where the helmet is absorbing the impact by destroying itself in the process. But it would cost way, way more.

  8. karlpilkington says: Apr 25, 2011 11:45 AM

    dwoofer says:
    Apr 25, 2011 11:20 AM
    Quick !! Rush one of those new helmets to Kurt Warner before he finishes his next round on “Dancing With The Stars.”

    I can not stand people who right the first thing that pops into his or her head just to be first one on the list to search for approval.

    Just stupid.

  9. redskinsrt says: Apr 25, 2011 12:07 PM

    I wonder if any dual shell concepts have been tested.. find rigidity/material that should be on the outer and inner shells, what to separate them with, and the padding between inner and head. Going to have to look into this later.

  10. sml1950 says: Apr 25, 2011 12:07 PM

    It may seem crazy and is certainly counter-intuitive, but maybe the answer is to reduce the rigidity of the helmet. Make it a hard rubber so that the attacking player risks more injury if he uses it as a weapon. Players will hesitate leading with their helmet if they are the ones who get KOed.

  11. bucfandango says: Apr 25, 2011 12:12 PM

    ncsteeler says:
    Apr 25, 2011 11:33 AM
    They should add a layer of padding on the outside of the helmet as well.
    ————————

    I agree 100% and have been asking this question for a few years now. Even if they put a slim padded outer cover with leather that wouldn’t tear, may help soften the blows. Good Call NCSteeler. They need to think not only outside the box, but outside the helmet too.

  12. bigbeefyd says: Apr 25, 2011 12:17 PM

    karlpilkington says:
    Apr 25, 2011 11:45 AM
    dwoofer says:
    Apr 25, 2011 11:20 AM
    Quick !! Rush one of those new helmets to Kurt Warner before he finishes his next round on “Dancing With The Stars.”

    I can not stand people who right the first thing that pops into his or her head just to be first one on the list to search for approval.

    Just stupid.

    *******************************
    I can’t stand people that take others to task when they don’t really know what words they are using to do so (right vs. write – look it up).

    Just ignorant.

  13. rockinron2 says: Apr 25, 2011 12:17 PM

    ncsteeler says:
    Apr 25, 2011 11:33 AM
    They should add a layer of padding on the outside of the helmet as well. This might make players less likely to use the helmet as weapon and prevent a few other injuries from helmet to knee or helmet to ribs shots as well as from helmet to helmet hits.

    ————————-

    Completely agree with making the outside of the helmet cushioned to prevent its use as a weapon. Letting players dive head-first into other players knees is the same as giving them a baseball bat.

  14. sunnyd89 says: Apr 25, 2011 12:19 PM

    I can not stand people who right the first thing that pops into his or her head just to be first one on the list to search for approval.

    Just stupid

    ==================================

    I can’t stand condescending internet dicks that think they’re better than everyone else.

  15. kelvinmchale says: Apr 25, 2011 12:21 PM

    I think the ideal helmet for NFL players is the one worn by Dark Helmet in “Spaceballs.”

  16. terpface says: Apr 25, 2011 12:36 PM

    What good will these do if we already have safer helmets, but the league wont force the players to wear the because of their contract with Riddell?

  17. Deb says: Apr 25, 2011 12:53 PM

    The operative word is study. The NFL gives a lot of lip service to making “prevention of brain injuries on the field a high priority”–or more accurately, Goodell began giving the issue a lot of lip service once Congress suggested the possibility of government oversight. But instead of doing appropriate research to determine a workable way to minimize injuries, he opted for big PR moves like levying $75,000 fines (often reduced on appeal). Those fines generated a lot of publicity for Goodell but they didn’t prevent any concussions last season. An improved helmet might.

  18. bluvayner says: Apr 25, 2011 1:46 PM

    Football helmets are designed to be multiple impact helmets. Other helmets like motorcycle helmets, bicycle helmets, and ski helmets are single impact helmets, which disperse force by shattering. Military helmets will dent on impact. None of these would be practical for sports like football or hockey, because they would shatter or dent all the time. It’s not a matter of cost, you’d need to get a new helmet after almost every play.

    Adding padding to the outside of the shell is not a new idea. Back in the 1960s Oklahoma among others used a lot of McGregor helmets with foam padding down the center of the helmet. In the 1990s a few players wore a soft foam outer liner on their helmet to absorb shock and help prevent concussions.

    The problem with that is that when two helmets with hard, rounded, shells collide, they glance off of each other. When two soft foam helmets collide, they stick to each other. The energy needs to go somewhere, and could be transferred into spine. The feeling was that the softer shell helmets might possibly help prevent concussions, but they greatly increased the chances of a catastrophic neck injury. Things are rarely as simple as they might seem at first glance.

  19. robsterny says: Apr 25, 2011 1:52 PM

    Why not make defensive player’s helmets with reactive armor. This way when he uses his helmet as a weapon, it explodes. lol

  20. hobartbaker says: Apr 25, 2011 1:55 PM

    James Harrison is advocating for the Hussar style helmet, circa Crimean War, with the spike on top.

  21. kevinfromphilly says: Apr 25, 2011 2:16 PM

    Yeah, unless the NFL allows handguns on the field, a military helmet probably wouldn’t help. On the other hand, the strip clubs would become a lot safer.

  22. medialovesthecowboys says: Apr 25, 2011 2:29 PM

    I can not stand people who right the first thing that pops into his or her head just to be first one on the list to search for approval.

    Just stupid
    ——————————————————
    I think it’s spelled “write”

  23. commentcentral says: Apr 25, 2011 2:30 PM

    perhaps an extra layer of Nougat might help.

  24. Deb says: Apr 25, 2011 2:49 PM

    It’s always heartwarming to see how much support Goodell has among PFT readers … especially given how much they complained about him last season. It doesn’t matter which side you’re on in the labor dispute or which teams you love or hate. Goodell has been an ineffective commissioner and most of his policies have gone against the stated wishes of NFL fans.

    Like it or not, he the league cut funding to paralysis research on his watch and made only minimal efforts to reduce the risks of head injuries until Congress began holding hearings into NFL players and brain trauma. Only after Congressional committee members began talking about government oversight did Goodell suddenly decide to start talking about concern for player safety. Even so, he hasn’t done much more than talk and cloud the issue with ineffective rule interpretations. But I’m sure he appreciates your support. :roll:

  25. thefiesty1 says: Apr 25, 2011 2:50 PM

    That’s what they need, ANOTHER study. Just fix it already.

  26. fighting69th says: Apr 25, 2011 3:51 PM

    Taking the face-masks away would solve everything.

  27. Deb says: Apr 25, 2011 5:03 PM

    @thefiesty1 …

    Fix what?!? If they don’t study the issue, they don’t know what to fix or how to fix it, genius. Good grief :roll:

  28. dansnyder says: Apr 25, 2011 8:09 PM

    @bluvayner

    I couldn’t agree more. Concussions come from the rattling of the brain when a big hit occurs but the way helmets are designed they actually remove the need of alot of the neck and upper area of the body to absorb the impact by glancing off each other. This of course only occurs with helmet to helmet hits and doesnt really apply to other types of hits.

    When two helmets collide they end up pingponging or glancing depending on angle which removes a huge strain off the neck region and spine. What it doesnt do is remove the fact that with any impact to the head the brain moves around and is cushioned by the cerebrospinal fluid but when the impact is forceful enough the brain moves so much that it slams into the skull which leads to concussion and hemorrhaging. This happens more in direct helmet to helmet hits, pingponging as I coined earlier, that in glancing blows.

    Therefore in my opinion the best solution is create a higher % of glancing blows. You can do this multiple ways. If we are only talking about helmet to helmet hits then changing helmet characteristics to be slightly more cone shaped would really improve glancing shots. When I saw cone I mean a very slight change, nothing like from cone heads. The negative of that is on body shots when leading with the helmet the neck will most likely absorb more force then it would on a regular helmet.

    To me the best overall solution, not just for helmet to helmet but for everything would be to leave the current characteristics for non helmet hits as the only realistic way to decrease force from the hit would to physically attach the helmet to the body which would be limiting UNLESS it were designed to be free flowing but as with car crashed at the moment of impact it locks up before the head and neck can fully absorb the force and it ends up being distributed throughout the body or upper portion of the pads.

    Oops, I didnt even say what I was going to in last paragraph but the best current solution would be create helmets out of an extremely slick, very low friction material to increase odds of glancing blows. You want to do everything you can if possible to almost create a repelling effect. Using substances repelling or very low friction substances on helmets or possibly specific stuff that only does work when one product comes into contact with another could work with one substance being applied to offensive player helmets and the opposite to defensive players. Of course there a tons of variables and I could even go into talking about the use of magnets and fields and sensors where specific electro magnets activate upon near collision to slightly guide a helmet to create the best possible chance of a glancing shot.

    I typed way too much and honestly feel like I just scratched the surface at the same time but I feel with cheap current technology the easiest change we could make is to improve the chance of glancing helmet to helmet hits by changing the material or applying a material to make the helmet both smoother and create less friction. Strengthening the helmet would also help as when it comes to reflecting projectiles the stronger the material the better.

    The NFL should go to a more spherical shape, increase helmet rigidity while doing it’s best to make the outside as smooth and frictionless as possible, all while increasing the absorbing properties within the shell.

  29. dansnyder says: Apr 25, 2011 8:17 PM

    After reading over what I just typed you can really tell I have severe ADD lol. I cannot finish typing a sentence let alone a paragraph without going off on a tangent!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!