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Cardiff University to develop helmet padding to combat NFL concussions


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Researchers at Cardiff University have received £90,000 from the NFL after winning a competition to develop helmet padding.

The HeadHealthTech Challenge, which funds research into improving safety and reducing concussion, was collected by Cardiff, the first non-US university to win the award.

They argued, traditional American football helmets ran out of capacity to absorb energy, but their additional material lined in the helmet, known as C3, absorbed more energy as the collision energy rose.

The elastic material with high energy absorbency is designed to stiffen as any collision force increases.

Dr Peter Theobald, senior lecturer at the university's school of engineering, and one of the project leaders told the BBC:

"The best analogy we can give is what we are in is the packaging industry. We happen to be packaging the head and the brain,"

He compared the challenges facing helmets to a new TV being delivered in a foam-packaged box, saying if the TV was dropped while being delivered, the foam would prevent the screen from cracking.

However, if it was being rattled around in the box as it was shuffled across the floor or dropped from a very low height, the packaging would not provide protection as it was too stiff.

"Not only do the helmets need to protect against high-energy forces, they also need to start needing to protect against low energy forces, so when we're drawing a comparison to our TV, when we drop that from a low height in its box we need a helmet protecting the head at relatively low energy collisions.

"The problem with American football at the minute is the helmets are tailored towards the high-energy impacts but not the low-impact ones."

In April 2016, a US appeals court upheld a $1bn (£700m) settlement between the National Football League (NFL) and a group of retired players who suffered brain damage as result of concussions.

Image Rights - U.S. federal government, Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth

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