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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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:
- Be a light weight
material to limit player fatigue.
- Absorb Energy.
- Redirect Energy.
- Be deformable, like
crumple zones within cars.
- Needs to maintain team
This list might sound
like an impossible wish list of items however the required materials may already
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
Hey, were talking about a multi-billion dollar industry here, where its just not
acceptable to be complacent with whatever is on the market
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
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
Date: November 23, 2009