Football Helmets: The Last Line of Defense?

Football Helmets: The Last Line of Defense?

Ray: Football. There’s nothing like it. Hail-mary passes. Bone-rattling hits. And likely some bonehead calls by the refs. We cheer for the hits, but we’re learning more about the impacts those
brutal tackles have on the brain. Players always wear their helmets. But are these helmets enough? [Splash INTRO] In the early 1900s, football players were dying from head injuries including skull fractures and bleeding inside the brain. That led to the first helmets, made from leather and sometimes cloth padding, which made football a lot safer. But by the 60s, deaths from head injuries started to rise again, leading to mandatory use of hard shell football helmets and standards to certify that the helmets actually prevented injury. Football helmets have stayed pretty
much the same since the 1960s. They have a hard outer shell, a thick lining of foam padding, and a grill of bars to protect the face. So, the idea behind helmets is to decrease the force the skull, and the brain, feel on impact. How much of an impact? Let’s ask this scientician. Ray: Well, say you’re on a roller coaster, you might feel yourself being pushed down into your seat at about 5 times the force of gravity, or 5 Gs. A fighter pilot feels twice that in a tight turn. Two football players crashing together at full speed? It could be thirty times that — 150 Gs. And that’s just the big hits. Even routine collisions are about 30 or 40 Gs. All those hits are bad news for your brain. Our skull is a good solid protective shell, but the brain is vulnerable because isn’t locked in place – it sort of floats around inside your skull. When you get hit in the head, your brain sloshes around, hitting the inside of skull, which can cause a concussion. The immediate results can include
dizziness, confusion and feeling sick. Longer term consequences of, especially repeated, concussion are only beginning to be understood, but many former
football players report scary effects like personality changes and impaired brain function. So how does a helmet help? Ray: A good helmet can limit
the force the brain feels. The hard shell stops anything from actually
hitting the skull, which prevents fractures. Early plastics used for the shell
Were brittle and would crack. But newer polymers like the polycarbonate
blends found in bulletproof glass can absorb a lot of force, and don’t crack under the pressure. But the real value of a modern football
helmet is in smoothing out the impact. With a helmet on, the duration of the collision is spread out, meaning less damaging
force at a given instant. You can thank the foam inside the
helmet for this dispersion of force. Ray: These foams are made out of chemicals
like vinyl nitrile or ethylene vinyl acetate. You might recognize these chemicals
from those awesome foam fingers. So if padding helps cushion the blow,
why not just add more padding? Well, too much soft padding can mean the impact moves through the cushy
padding until it finds a weak point. That weak point? Your neck. Ray: There was also the scientifically dubious idea of
putting a liner of kevlar inside the helmet. That makes the helmet’s shell stronger, but does nothing to cushion the brain. One researcher likens it to an egg: a stronger shell doesn’t stop the yolk inside from getting scrambled. The real answer, unfortunately, seems to
be that football is a dangerous sport. Bones break, tendons tear, knees go kaput. Head injuries may be inevitable. Some players accept the risk,
while others leave the field Without changing the way the game is played, the best we can do right now is rely on new materials and a growing understanding of brain injuries to protect and inform our players as best we can. Hopefully your top fantasy player
won’t get hurt this season. Let us know who you’re rooting for
down below in the comment section, college or pro, we wanna know. If you haven’t guessed from my Philly accent, which I don’t think exists, I’m an Eagles fan. Bring it, Cowboys. We’re ready for you. Be sure to like, share and subscribe. And hey thanks for watching!

17 thoughts on “Football Helmets: The Last Line of Defense?

  1. I wonder how American Football players compare to Rugby players in terms of injuries? From the video, it sounds like being a Rugby player ought to be a death trap.

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