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Additional Minnesota Viking Commentary

Concussions & Making Millions
I present these arguments today as the safety and the future of today's NFL players far in away are more important than holding onto an idea that can potentially make millions of dollars.  It's time to get serious about helmet design.  The design of tomorrow cannot happen unless you know the problem and can clearly define your requirements.     

The word elastic is in reference to scientific terminology.  The first thing that most people think of when they hear the word elastic is the rubber recoil in your favorite pair of whitie-tighties, or boxers, or your favorite comfortable pair of fat pants, but nothing could be further from the truth.  What elasticity is, is the ability of a material to deflect to an applied load or force, causing stress and strain within the material, where once that force is removed, the material returns to its original shape.  Steel for example has an elastic limit, where once a force is applied beyond that limit, the metal will deform and will no longer return to its original form.        

Now imagine billiard or pool balls.  Having them smash against one another is an example of an almost perfect elastic collision.  It is almost perfect in that the energy of the collision is not transferred into another form, such as heat or deformation.  The energy of the collision is initially absorbed and then immediately recoiled.  Acceleration occurs with the change in direction.  At the point of impact, then energy transfer results in an immediate change in direction, maintaining constant velocity.  The acceleration at the point of impact of the two balls is the point of maximum acceleration.  Force = mass times acceleration, so the forces can be quite intense.  An NFL helmet collision, in this regard, is almost exactly like an elastic billiard ball collision.  Not a good idea for the yolk inside that ball or helmet.  The problem with the present helmet design is that the shell of the helmet does nothing to prevent, or better said hinder, the effects of an elastic collision.  

The common thought process is that the inner lining of a helmet is enough to protect a player from brain damage.  One could argue that this light weight lining acts as a spring, which initially compresses, and then recoils adding to the effect of the elastic collision.  Where the force of the spring stores up the energy and then releases it.  A spring is unique in that the force increases the more it compresses.  Not a good idea, especially when this potential energy releases itself, adding to the effects of the elastic collision.  Hey, its better than a total leather helmet is many ways, but inviting an the effects of an elastic collision to a human brain is never a good idea.  

Let's put this in perspective.  Let's take your brain and put it inside a pool ball.  Don't worry, we'll support your brain inside the pool ball using springs.  Now take 22 pool balls and smash them together.  Can you say Ga Ga!  Now, correct the problem.  Wrap each of the pool balls in a layer of leather or leather-like material and smash them together. Alright, I'll admit that that doesn't sound like as much fun as it just wouldn't sound right ... now would it.  Get the picture! 

Not yet?  How about bare fisted boxers clenching onto cushioned handles while they pound on each other.  Sounds a little backward doesn't it.  Now do you get it?   

The answer to today's concussion dilemma may actually comes from a past design.  Some time ago, in a visit to the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, I got to see a helmet of my youth once more.  Willie Lanier's helmet was on display.  It was unique in that it has a large rudimentary leather-like cushion, like a vertical stripe on a helmet, running from front to back, on the outside of the helmet.  This on its own did much to limit the forces of an elastic collision.  Sounds irrelevant but remember that Gatorade came from the era of Super Bowl IV.         

Years ago cars used to be designed rigidly where once you were in an accident, this stiffened steel body shell construction acted much like an elastic collision.  The death and injury rates to the people inside these crashes, due to these design flaws, where staggering.  Today, cars are designed to absorb the energy of those collisions and then transfer a great deal of that energy into heat and metal deformation.  Limiting the energy results in lesser accelerations (violent effects to the brain).  In other words, the safe Volvo design will fold up like an accordion, transferring the energy of the collision into metal deformation, even under a relatively like impact.  What this does is protect the people inside of the car from these violent instantaneous forces (violent accelerations).  The car itself is sacrificial in terms of the payload (your body and brains).  These same design concepts needs to be applied to the helmet designs of today.  

The objective is to have an outer helmet shell that will acts counter to effects of the elastic collisions of present helmet designs.  This shell needs the following attributes.  The outer shell material needs to:

  1. Be a light weight material to limit player fatigue.
  2. Absorb Energy.
  3. Redirect Energy.
  4. Be deformable, like crumple zones within cars.  
  5. Needs to maintain team logos.

This list might sound like an impossible wish list of items however the required materials may already exist.

For example, imagine a material with a cross linked structure, that on a micro scale, acts like a truss or a simple bridge to redistribute loads.  The total force applied of 100 pounds to a bridge is redistributed to 50 pounds force of its supports.  If you increase the area of these supports, the force felt are applied over the area of the support, which might only be a fraction of the original loads.  This alone might be the difference between the effects of a severe brain injury and a non-head-injury.  

Hey, were talking about a multi-billion dollar industry here, where its just not acceptable to be complacent with whatever is on the market today.   

So you think this is pie in the sky.  Well it wasn't so long ago that Hall of Famer Dan Fouts was out with a rib injury where some lunatic came up with something called a flack jacket.  This dude needed to convince the big guy that this jacket would work by taking repeated shots to the ribs with a 2x4.  Guess who played in a playoff game. 

Yo coaches!  For one moment have you ever wondered why so many NFL players make such stupid mistakes or have complete mental breakdowns or lapses, like not holding the ball high and tight.  Let me borrow your brain and support it internally on spring for a few hundred elastic collisions and you'll get the picture.  Before you blow your next gasket ... take a deep breath and show a little compassion.     

Doesn't the very design of a set of shoulder pads act to redirect forces ... "It sure do ... helmet head".  

When I was a boy, today's simple garage door opener was science fiction.  

Redesign the outer shell!  Get on it!  Now!


I'd rather be the known as the Ghost that changed the NFL forever than that guy standing there with the fat pockets, walking with the big fat lumps of cash in his shoes.  

The Viking Ghost Writer
Date: November 23, 2009

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