Duke, NFL partner to produce better, safer football helmets
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The NFL and Football Research Inc. have partnered with Duke researchers in order to find solutions for new helmets and other protective equipment to improve player safety.
The international program, HeadHealthTECH Challenges, is aimed to look the relationship between how a helmet performs and the properties of the pads in that helmet, which produce that performance. The program believes that a mathematical relationship between head-impact force and stress-strain properties of the helmet liner could help with ideas of future design strategies.
HeadHealthTECH Challenges is a series of innovation challenges that has a goal to find solutions for head protection and material science aimed to better understand head kinematics. The TECH Challenges are all operated by Duke University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI). For Tech Challenge I, proposals on helmet technologies and surfaces that helmets contact are being accepted from Nov. 10 through Dec. 15. The program then chose what they considered to be the most promising and provided in-kind support from FRI.
“Duke’s capability and experience with the Players Association and the league make it an ideal partner,” Barry Myers, professor of biomedical engineering and director of innovation at Duke, said in a statement. “The combination of Duke Engineering’s leadership in head and neck injury research and Duke CTSI’s track record for using project management to translate research into clinical applications gives the perfect confluence of abilities to lead this initiative.”
The NFL announced in September it had allocated $60 million from its Play Smart. Play Safe. initiative to crowd-source and support the best ideas that come out of challenges for engineering experts around the world. The creation and funding of that five-year plan called the “Engineering Roadmap” that will be managed by FRI, a nonprofit formed and financially supported by the NFL.
“We’re going to connect the experts doing groundbreaking research on injury biomechanics and prevention with innovators who are eager to create next-generation solutions,” NFL executive vice president of health and safety initiatives Jeff Miller said in a statement. “Previous Head Health Challenges have catalyzed the development of many new products; our work going forward will bring direct focus on the injury biomechanics of football and create incentives for the wisdom of the marketplace to design and manufacture improved equipment.”
Myers, who is spearheading this program, is also the program director of the Duke-Coulter Translational Partnership Grant Program. Since 2006, that program has given $8 million to support 39 pilot projects between clinicians and biomedical engineers which has led to $486 million in follow-on tuning, 13 licenses to industry and the founding of eight new startup companies.
“With strong partnerships between our school of medicine and engineering, Duke has been recognized as one of the most successful members of this nationwide program and as a leader in enabling translation research,” Myers said.