Timonium Man Has New Helmet Design
Bert Straus, an independent industrial designer in Timonium who has been designing football helmets for 20 years, has improved upon his ProCap design used in the late '80s to come up with what he calls the "Gladiator."
Worn at all levels of play, the ProCap had a hard outer shell made from urethane foam, while the improved Gladiator design essentially turns the current helmet inside-out, using soft padding on the outside, a hard shell on the inside and another layer of padding under that.
"A typical helmet has a layering working from the outside-in of a hard shell and soft stuff on the inside; the padding's on the inside," Straus said. "Well, we've put the padding on the outside and then we have the hard shell and then we have another layer of padding below that. So it's a soft-hard-soft system as opposed to a hard-soft system."
Concussions occur when, at a heightened level of acceleration, two players collide. When their bodies hit each other, they stop but their brain doesn't, which causes the brain to bang against the skull. The risk of concussions can be reduced if the acceleration is reduced. The reason NFL players are experiencing more tragic concussions at a faster rate is players are bigger and running faster than they ever have before. If speed cannot be reduced, then it is logical to reduce impact.
A soft outer shell on a helmet absorbs some of the impact a player causes when colliding with another, reducing acceleration and allowing the momentum to transfer away from the head. It acts as a deflector.
"The soft shell takes care of both of those basic physics requirements, very much like soft bumpers on a car or soft walls in NASCAR racing. It's all the same principle," Straus said.
Last-minute developments are currently being made to Straus' design, which will be available in retail stores sometime in 2011.
"I think what we've been doing, say over the last 40 years, is using the same technology that's answering a 40-year-old problem," Straus said. "It's a hard shell and soft stuff on the inside. It's not the best way to go about it."
-- Krystina Lucido