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New device could help limit concussions in practice

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As all levels of football try to deal with the realities of head injuries, a new device could reduce concussions that happen during practice.

The Guardian is a cap that attaches to the outside of the helmet, with extra padding that reduces the intensity of helmet impacts.

Designed only for practice (for now), where the manufacturer contends 90 percent of concussions occur, the Guardian pops off upon a major collision, providing objective warning that the player who was wearing it needs to be checked for a possible concussion.

“The college and pro teams are not the targets right now,” Guardian sales rep Steve Cook said, via the Colfax (Cal.) Record.  “We want to start with the youth, to have more protection from potential concussions.  There are former football players saying they don’t want their kids to play, but I think something like this can help protect them.”

The company manufactured 200,000 units.  Already, 53,000 have been sold.

The bigger question is whether these types of external devices should be used in games.  Far less aesthetically pleasing than the shiny, hard-shell helmet, look for fans and players to resist game use of these devices.  Hopefully, common sense will in time prevail — especially at the youth and high school levels of the sport.

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37 Responses to “New device could help limit concussions in practice”
  1. fijabbersman345 says: May 21, 2012 12:56 PM

    Wow, that’s actually a really fantastic idea. I bet you Nike could figure out some cool looks with that type of helmet cap, but it’d have to be modified for college/the pros because everyone hits a whole lot harder and everyone is a lot more tough.

  2. Hank Koebler, IV says: May 21, 2012 1:03 PM

    The problem with outside padding on a helmet is it’ll create friction when two helmets hit each other. That will lead to more people’s heads/necks changing direction during head-to-head hits, as opposed to glancing off the opponent’s head like you normally would now. That would equal more neck injuries, which could end up paralyzing people.

    Helmet technology can only go so far in protecting players. As counterintuitive as it may sound, the best way to improve head safety may be to eliminate helmets altogether.

  3. bluvayner says: May 21, 2012 1:04 PM

    Hard, rounded surfaces glance off of each other.

    Soft , irregular surfaces stick, which would increase the likelyhood of neck injuries.

    That’s why you don’t see players wearing helmets with a layer of soft foam on the outside of the shell, like Oklahoma did back in the 1960s.

  4. cjepp says: May 21, 2012 1:07 PM

    The more padding you provide, the harder players will hit.

  5. wholelottacrazygoingon says: May 21, 2012 1:07 PM

    Shouldn’t we wait for some hard scientific evidence that devices like this actually help reduce concussions before we call their use “common sense”?

  6. romeisburningtfb says: May 21, 2012 1:16 PM

    This kind of shows that the helmets are somewhat worthless. It’s like adding a seatbelt to a seatbelt. Just design the helmets in a way that mimics this,

  7. dccowboy says: May 21, 2012 1:16 PM

    “The problem with outside padding on a helmet is it’ll create friction when two helmets hit each other. That will lead to more people’s heads/necks changing direction during head-to-head hits, as opposed to glancing off the opponent’s head like you normally would now. That would equal more neck injuries, which could end up paralyzing people.

    Helmet technology can only go so far in protecting players. As counterintuitive as it may sound, the best way to improve head safety may be to eliminate helmets altogether.”

    ==========

    And start playing flag football as well.

  8. njgiant1982 says: May 21, 2012 1:19 PM

    softer causes more neck injuries? Ruggers have used scrum hats for decade. you are pulling stats from you’re pooper.

  9. ningenito78 says: May 21, 2012 1:20 PM

    It will ruin the sounds of the game too. Not to mention delays every time one of those things fly off players helmets. I’m for more safety but it’s football. Contact sports cause injuries, concussions, etc. if the players don’t want to deal with them, quit. You can only make 250 lb superhumans colliding into each other at automobile rates of speed so safe.

  10. neer music says: May 21, 2012 1:20 PM

    i can’t wait until the league resembles an nfl version of spaceballs.

  11. ningenito78 says: May 21, 2012 1:21 PM

    Or like Mike Ditka said- take away the helmets. That will stop guys from lowering their head. Guaranteed.

  12. tp3636 says: May 21, 2012 1:26 PM

    Interesting.

    More significantly Bill Simpson of Simpson Safety Equipment designed a few helmets that were worn by Austin Collie, Dwight Freeny & others of the Indianapolis Colts last year. Simpson figured that if he can protect the heads of Indy & NASCAR drivers in wrecks, the NFL should be possible too.

    http://www.indystar.com/article/20110825/SPORTS03/108250354/Collie-teammates-test-helmet-designed-by-racing-safety-guru

  13. thegreatgabbert says: May 21, 2012 1:29 PM

    It’s fine until you pull the tab at the bottom and your entire head and helmet explode like a hand grenade.

  14. thegreatgabbert says: May 21, 2012 1:32 PM

    Seriously, though, the answer is to make the helmet part of the shoulder pads. But able to swivel and bob. That takes stress off neck/spine/brain stem area and distributes it to the shoulders.

  15. Steeley McBeam says: May 21, 2012 1:37 PM

    People need to give the “take the helmets away” stance a rest. There are many other injury causing factors than two heads colliding: knees, elbows, feet, the groud, etc. that sure you might take away any incentives to lower your head into another players, but unprotected contact with another players knee or the ground itself would be much worse.

    I do like the idea of a break away shell that forces players to be evaluated for a concussion, but the ribs in the one in the pic would certainly intertwine at some point and cause some serious whiplash injuries.

    Theres no quick fix. They need to start with diagnosing and properly treating concussions before they add new equipment that may do more harm than good. An even better idea would be fining players who dont wear the Peyton Manning, Troy Polamalu style helmets that have been proven to reduce damage, as some have suggested.

    They need to define the grey area between ‘flag football’ and ‘you signed up for this sport now deal with the ramifications’.

  16. NoHomeTeam says: May 21, 2012 1:48 PM

    ningenito78 says: “It will ruin the sounds of the game too . . . I’m for more safety but . . .”

    “Sounds of the game?” Seriously? If hearing the ‘crunches’ and the grunts of grown men slamming into each other is a key part of your enjoyment, you may want to evaluate why you watch this game.

    Also this: “I’m all for [insert socially-desirable thing here] but [insert reason why I don’t really want it here]”

  17. pjevonj says: May 21, 2012 1:51 PM

    Great concept for the little leagues!

  18. NoHomeTeam says: May 21, 2012 1:54 PM

    thegreatgabbert says: “Seriously, though, the answer is to make the helmet part of the shoulder pads. But able to swivel and bob. That takes stress off neck/spine/brain stem area and distributes it to the shoulders.”

    Now this makes sense.

    A bajillion years ago, I saw an engineering student’s prototype for a safer — note: safe-er — motorcycle outfit. It was an integrated helmet-shoulder pad rig, almost exactly as you have described (it was bright orange, as I recall). Not overly practical for everyday riding, but I thought back then that it could be used for football.

    Say, that wasn’t your design, was it gabby? :-)

  19. bpfpft says: May 21, 2012 2:05 PM

    I think the most interesting design I’ve seen recently is the Bulwark, which is the creation of a 41-year-old industrial design engineer Michael Princip, who’s been working on the helmet for about two years.

    The Bulwark is made up of sectioned panels and the outer plates are positioned over an inner shell, and that combination of elements — the distinct panels & the 2 shell layers, with a thin layer of padding in between — is the key to the helmet’s anti-concussion design.

    “The whole point of sectioning it is to isolate and dissipate an impact before it reaches the inner shell,” says Princip. He then launches into a detailed explanation studded with terms like “thermoplastic urethane” and “coronal plane” and other bits of engineering-ese, but here’s the short version: With a traditional helmet, the force of an impact can rattle throughout the entire structure, but the Bulwark is designed to localize the force in one area of the exterior paneling, so only a small amount of disruptive energy reaches the inner shell. It’s sort of like how having individual shock absorbers for each wheel of your car is better than having one big shock absorber for the whole undercarriage.

    Info as well as photos is available by a google search.

  20. morgan420 says: May 21, 2012 2:08 PM

    Lets just wrap them up in bubble wrap and use nurf footballs, hell lets just play professional flag football. Or just grow some balls and face reality

  21. dan39564 says: May 21, 2012 2:10 PM

    They would have fewer concussions, if they did away with helmets and shoulder pads, and coaches could teach kids how to tacle!
    Instead of teaching them to use helmets as weapons. Many a pewwee coach has been heard to say, stick your helmut in his gut.

  22. east96st says: May 21, 2012 2:16 PM

    “Shouldn’t we wait for some hard scientific evidence that devices like this actually help reduce concussions before we call their use “common sense”?”

    What? And introduce common sense and scientific facts to the debate when emotions and knee jerk reactions are so much better?!? Next thing you know, you’ll want people to actually study the issues facing the country instead of just voting how their news anchor or talk radio host tells them to! You, sir, are a dangerous radical!

  23. xivraider says: May 21, 2012 2:29 PM

    what if they ban all legal/illegal performance enhancing substances & put a weight limit at each position plus rule changes & newer equipment tech should at least stop a few concussions XD

    or take the helmet away XD but that would change the game too much the NFL wants fast hard collisions all the time XD They fine players for illegal hits then boom 3-5 illegal hits on NFL.com highlights of the day/week WTF

  24. txxxchief says: May 21, 2012 2:36 PM

    External padding has been shown to reduce concussion risk, and it deweaponizes the helmet. However, the ultimate problem is that no engineer can redesign the head.

    One can design the helmet to reduced the force and decelerate the impact to the skull to some degree, but the brain will continue to slosh around inside the skull and collide with the inner table of the skull, which is the real source of brain injury.

    Helmets have been developed with electronics to measure and record the number and force of impacts. Such a system could be used throughout the course of a season to measure cumulative trauma much in the same way radiation monitors are used to gauge expose over time.

    There is already a good deal of technology out there to protect the players. It is time for the NFL, NCAA and others to mandate the use of better technology and to ignore the players’ aesthetic complaints.

    Now, if they could just revise the Bulwark so that it pops up like the old Rock’em Sock’em robot boxing game to let everyone know when it is time for a player to leave the game.

  25. allinskins says: May 21, 2012 2:50 PM

    What this story has not said is the fact there are a few manufacturers that have made concussion sensitive helmets. They are a little bigger but still have a hard shell. The problem is the price tag goes up. Believe me if we can build cars that are made of plastic and can still sustain 40 mph collisions with significant damage to your car then we can build helmets for humans to do the same.

  26. bleed4philly says: May 21, 2012 2:51 PM

    If there’s full contact it’s gonna pop off every play.

  27. santolonius says: May 21, 2012 2:55 PM

    i think they look cool – in a mad max sort of way. as a fan, i could embrace the aesthetic change were this technology deemed worthy of use.

  28. andrejohnsonforpresident says: May 21, 2012 3:17 PM

    heh, if the NFL used these they would fly all over the field on every play!

  29. JSpicoli says: May 21, 2012 3:39 PM

    wholelottacrazygoingon says:
    May 21, 2012 1:07 PM
    Shouldn’t we wait for some hard scientific evidence that devices like this actually help reduce concussions before we call their use “common sense”?

    ___________________________________

    Ding ding ding. winner. But know it all won’t want to hear it.

  30. therealtrenches says: May 21, 2012 3:43 PM

    Won’t the added safety in practice just train players to get into the habit of hitting in ways that don’t cause injuries during practice, when the device is on, but that might cause injuries during games, when the device is off?

  31. botchedextrapoint says: May 21, 2012 4:46 PM

    xivraider | May 22, 2012, 4:29 AM AEST
    what if they ban all legal/illegal performance enhancing substances & put a weight limit at each position plus rule changes & newer equipment tech should at least stop a few concussions XD

    ————
    Wow, finally somebody who agrees with me on performance enhancing drugs. Most sports have a two year ban for first offences, and a lifetime ban after that. Cut down on the HGH and that will start to lower the concussions. A size limit is a great idea. No linemen over 285 pounds.

  32. camiller85 says: May 21, 2012 5:26 PM

    Van Gundy is a good coach, but with his old school approach he needs to coach a team like Denver, without a superstar to stay on longer term anywhere…..

  33. roseann894 says: May 21, 2012 6:49 PM

    The bees called. They want their hive back.

  34. truths4all says: May 21, 2012 7:51 PM

    The next step is for the manufacturer to add an external layer of extremely durable and flexible plastic like those used on car bumpers to provide the glancing blows and slide offs and still allow energy absorption to minimize head trauma. I understand that NASA has some polymer type plastic that is flexible and yet can withstand so many g-forces of impact. Some

  35. pocventures says: May 21, 2012 10:31 PM

    Many of you posted legitimate concerns regarding our product, the Guardian. These were concerns that we had as well during development and testing and had to answer them before making such a significant investment and bringing it to market.

    Friction – the obvious question mark. The outer covering of the Guardian is a polyester/lycra blend with a low coefficient of friction. Our tests proved that it glances just as much as a hard shell helmet.

    Flying off – the Guardian has 4 snaps that attach it to the facemask, a Velcro strap on the back of the helmet, and PU gel on the inside to stick to the helmet. The Guardian will not fly off, even with the hardest of hits.

    Hard Scientific Evidence – The Guardian was tested at three independent labs – Penn State University, Wayne State University, and Oregon Ballistics Lab and they all reported a significant reduction of the Head Injury Criteria and the Severity Index. 600 players wore the Guardian on the practice field last season and there were zero reported concussions.

    For more information, please visit our website:
    http://www.guardiancaps.com or contact us directly at sales@guardiancaps.com.

  36. yeahhhhbuddy says: May 21, 2012 10:38 PM

    From what I’ve read, these guys are engineers that have made all types of cool stuff. They have conducted three independent lab trials at university research laboratories and tested them on the field with over 600 players during the 2011 football season. They say that the covering is made of a low coefficient friction material that slides off other Guardians, jerseys and helmets. I like the Rugby analogy that they’ve been using something like this successfully for years.

    As for the seat belt & seat belt comment, which would you rather give up in a crash, the seat belt or the air bag? I’d rather have both to protect me.

    Finally somebodies doing something proactive and inexpensive to try and reduce these injuries. We should all be supportive of our young kids. If they get too many concussions, then they won’t be playing college or pro ball. Who cares if it looks goofy during practice. That’s where 90% of the concussions occur. If it protects my kid’s brain, he’s wearing it.

  37. savvybynature says: May 22, 2012 1:56 AM

    @yeahbuddy: When you say “from what I’ve read,” does that apply strictly to the comment directly preceding yours?

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