Football Helmet TestingJanuary 29, 2018
CTE — a degenerative brain condition caused by repeated impacts to the head — is changing the game of football as we know it. Since the first instances of damaging plaque were uncovered during autopsies performed on former NFL players, the highly profitable sporting organization has changed rules and poured resources into finding ways to make the game as safe as possible for players.
Maximizing the protection afforded by player helmets is one of the best ways to do this. Football helmet safety research is being prioritized more than ever these days, and improved football helmet technology is being released abundantly.
The intention is to improve fit and comfort, as well as football helmet safety ratings. But the most important goal is to provide better protection for players. Before these new designs can see use, they are subject to testing to determine whether they are up to NFL standards.
How to Test a Helmet
Each helmet design undergoes a bevy of tests designed to determine overall strength as well as impact resistance from the front, rear and sides. Football helmet testing is repeated in a variety of environmental conditions.
For example, certain tests recreate the way materials might expand or contract in the high heat or extreme cold that certain playing fields see.
In 2017 alone, the National Football League invested $100 million in research to improve helmets. Some of the safest football helmets available now are more customizable to the shape of a player’s head. Each helmet uses custom-fitted using pads that are adjustable, even down to a player’s haircut.
Many new designs also incorporate layers of protective materials to distribute impact forces. These new designs also often allow for a better field of vision so that players can see better to avoid traumatic impacts, or brace for a big hit.
Making a Difference
As the pressure on the NFL to protect players has increased, steps are also being taken to ensure that any potential head injury is reported. Not only are referees and coaches taking more responsibility, but players who may have stayed quiet due to concerns about job security in the past are even reporting their own injuries now.
That’s a major step forward, and while it might result in a star player sitting out a game they would not have in the past, that rest could help them avoid a career-ending injury.
Future Safety Features
Regulations are going to continue to get stricter for the 2018-19 season, with helmet designs being subjected to new rotational threshold testing in addition to the existing tests. These tests are intended to determine not only the helmet’s ability to protect against blows to the head, but also twisting force on a player’s neck.
Football is a contact sport. But modern technology is showing us there’s much that can be done to make the game safer, so that our favorite athletes can perform longer and enjoy comfortable, healthy retirements.