WVXU (Cincinnati, Ohio)
March 13, 2023
University of Cincinnati Biomedical Engineering Professor Eric Nauman is urging football helmet manufacturers to redesign their products to better protect the back of the head.
In the Journal of Biomechanical Engineering, Nauman reports he tested Schutt, Riddell, Xenith and Vicis helmets on test dummies. And he tested dummies without helmets.
His team delivered 20 blows by hand at seven impact points to determine how much mitigation there was at every location of the helmet. By measuring the force applied to the dummy with and without the helmets, researchers could single out the strengths of each helmet design at each impact point, Nauman explains.
The protection was below 50% at the back of the head. For the front of the head it was between 80-90%.
The study comes in the wake of rising concussion rates in the NFL, up 18% this last season, including players like Bengals’ receiver Tee Higgins and running back Joe Mixon.
“The classic one is that Tua Tagovailoa, when he’s playing the Bills. He fell backwards and hit his head on the ground,” says Nauman. “He clearly was impaired after that. We think that’s largely because that helmet doesn’t absorb a lot of the energy when it’s a blow to the back of the head.”
And then a couple of weeks later, while playing in Cincinnati, Nauman says “Tagovailoa got thrown to the ground, hit the back of his head, same exact location. And that had much more severe consequences.”
In the past, WVXU has reported on research from Cincinnati Children’s researchers who were experimenting with protective collars for use in high school football and soccer.
Nauman says he doesn’t want to prevent anybody from playing football, he just wants to make the game safer for those who do want to play.