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The Science Behind Brain Injury Prevention for Football Players – from Helmet Tech to Impact Mitigation Padding

For many years football has been the lifeblood and heartbeat of American culture, often seen as a microcosm of the American dream through its cultivating underdog stories, the resilience shown in overcoming adversities, and its textbook illustration of what can be accomplished when working together towards a common goal. For the very few players who are able to fully realize their dream of playing at the highest level, it’s a feeling unlike any other. However, like most great things in life, they often come at a price.

As sports science has evolved, it’s become evident that these great feats of human ability likely come at the expense of a player’s health. Among other complications, athletes run the risk of dealing with devastating injuries and long-term brain damage as a result of their playing career. While our understanding of these long-term effects is still in its infancy, the football world is leaning on advanced helmet technology and science to mitigate the damage of repeated impacts to the brain. With that in mind, here is a glimpse at the true severity of this problem and how a top impact mitigation company is tackling this issue with state-of-the-art solutions. 

The Problem

The most severe effect of repeated head trauma comes in the form of a degenerative brain disease known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or better known as “CTE”. People suffering from CTE can experience a number of symptoms including dementia, mood changes, heightened aggression and depression. In a recent Boston University Study conducted in 2017 it was reported that CTE was found in 99 percent of the 111 former NFL players studied. To further illustrate the destructive nature of this disease, in May of 2012, Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau took his own life, just two years after retiring from the game of football. As later reported by ESPN, it was discovered that Seau suffered from a severe case of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which ultimately lead to him taking his own life. The crippling reality of this disease remains; a stronger preventative measure must be reached.

Promising Solutions

Today, top scientists are still grappling with trying to fully understand the nuances of this disease. Because of its perplexity, more attention is being directed towards ways to prevent or limit head trauma in football through helmet technology.

Companies like SKYDEX – a global leader in advanced impact mitigation and cushioning solutions – which has a unique polyurethane technology that is engineered to be seamlessly integrated into existing sports protection products. The company’s engineers welcome the challenge of creating a safer tomorrow by deploying their industry leading solutions in football helmets to help combat brain injuries and limit the damage caused by repeated head trauma. SKYDEX proprietary geometries absorb greater force over repeated impact than foam-based impact absorbers like closed-cell foam or high-density EVA. Lightweight yet highly-durable, SKYDEX technology surpasses traditional alternatives and adapts to a host of protective needs. SKYDEX President and CEO, Alvaro Vaselli, highlights the versatile nature of the company’s solutions.

“Our unique technologies have been protecting troops in the battlefield for over a decade. From armored vehicles to bomb suits, helmets and body protection, we are proud to have made a difference in hundreds of thousands of people’s lives,” said Vaselli.

Additionally, performance apparel and equipment brands, like Sleefs, have designed football helmet visors which are intended to enhance the protection offered to its wearer. This protective headgear can mitigate the likelihood of head injuries from an impact to the head by removing glares and protecting individuals’ eyes from ultraviolet light damage and other small particles such as dust. Visors can be attached or detached, making it easy for athletes to protect themselves.

Where We Go from Here

Vaselli believes the application of his team’s technologies are fit to handle any impact mitigation challenge including those associated with the link between football and brain injuries.

“We are now advancing and customizing these technologies to offer protection, comfort and increased performance to athletes in many different sports including football, baseball, basketball, track and field and others. Enabling athletes to perform at their best while being safe is at the forefront of our team’s objectives. We are driven by a single purpose: protecting people and things that matter,” said Vaselli.

While football players will be the biggest beneficiaries of this technology, the versatility of SKYDEX solutions enable a world of possibility, a promising sign for the football community and the future of impact mitigation. Like most great challenges, top industry experts like Vaselli are hopeful that their solutions will provide a safer game for football players and athletes of all levels moving forward.

Although sports injuries are complex and there is no overnight fix to eliminating the risks, advancements from companies are promising and make athletes feel confident to perform. We can expect to see additional strides towards limiting the effects of repeated head trauma among football players in the coming years.

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