With the NFL playoffs in full swing, you can hardly advoid conversations about the game. One thing that’s constant, though, is public concern over not just personal injury, but the possibility that head injuries could be leading to the demise of football itself. Better helmet designs deserve consideration.
Seattle-based design engineer and football fan, Michael Princip, has a new helmet concept called the the Bulwark. Outwardly it’s old-school in appearance, but inside its modern engineering could help reduce head and neck injuries. Unlike traditional helmets, it’s made of individual shock-absorbing sections so that impacts remain as localized — and as minimized — as possible. Three shell layers also help dissipate a blow as it moves inward. Not only that, but the helmet weighs in at about a pound lighter than most other ones on the market.
Plus it looks cool. The color panels on the top layer swap out for a seamed look inspired by MacGregor and other styles of yesteryear’s helmets. Internally, the padding can be adjusted for each section too, meaning that a Bulwark helmet could be personalized for individual players or positions.
But the Bulwark itself is not for sale yet. In fact it may never be, at least in name. It’s designer, Michael Princip, wants to sell the model to a major helmet manufacturer rather than try to compete against trusted brands. He still needs to have the Bulwark tested, certified and patented before trying to sell the idea (after which, he told ESPN, he’d like to remain on the development team for the helmet).
Concussions are football’s horror stories. We hear about players so debilitated they must spend the rest of their lives under the care of nurses. Of death from complications, burst blood vessels and brain swelling. Of those that take their own lives due when suffering from traumatic encephalopathy, a concussion-borne condition which brings on depression and ultimately dementia. Perhaps even more chilling: these tragic endings don’t always come from one hard blow to the head. Studies like this one at Virginia Tech attempt to find the cumulative effect of many minor head hits to try and determine how much a player should be allowed to take. But, as helmet designers ask, why take the risk in the first place?