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Helmet Testing Expands to Baseball, Hockey, Lacrosse

Woman hockey player with helmet (VancityAllie/Flickr)Biomedical engineers at Virginia Tech and Wake Forest University will rate helmets for concussion protection in a variety of sports, and for youth football, over the next five years. The rating program applies research conducted by Stefan Duma and Steven Rowson of the joint biomedical engineering program at the two universities published earlier this month in the journal Annals of Biomedical Engineering.

The research by Duma and Rowson produces tests to predict the overall risk of concussion based on the linear and rotational accelerations experienced by the head during impact. Linear and rotational accelerations are a result of head impacts that cause the head to twist about the neck, leading to crainial nerve damage from movement of the brain inside the skull. The tests will help predict the risk of concussion when wearing helmets in various sports.

In May 2012, the Center for Injury Biomechanics at Virginia Tech rated 15 adult football helmet models, based on the Duma and Rowson methods, called Summation of Tests for the Analysis of Risk or STAR. Later this year, the researchers expect to produce similar ratings for hockey helmets, followed by youth football helmets in 2015. Ratings for baseball, softball, and lacrosse helmets are planned for 2016.

STAR ratings are based on data collected from more than 63,000 head impacts provided by football players wearing sensors during a period of 10 years that resulted in 37 concussions. In the journal article, the researchers validated their methods on two databases — the Head Impact Telemetry System and data collected by the National Football League based on reconstructions using dummies of game impacts resulting in concussions.

“All head impacts result in both linear and rotational accelerations, and this publication provides the foundation for our research to address both accelerations relative to reducing the risk of concussion,” says Duma. “Our goal with the five-year plan is to provide manufacturers with a schedule detailing when we will release helmet ratings for each sport.”

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Photo: VancityAllie/Flickr

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