Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences is expanding its ground-breaking research of testing football helmets to reduce the number of concussions to now include hockey, baseball, softball, and lacrosse.
The five-year plan will see the Virginia Tech research center, headed by Stefan Duma, rate helmets worn by hockey, baseball, softball, and lacrosse athletes in their ability to lessen the likelihood of a concussion resulting from a violent head impact.
Ratings on hockey helmets are expected in fall 2013, followed by youth football in 2015, and then baseball, softball, and lacrosse in 2016. During that time, all ratings for adult and youth football helmets will continually be updated and released to the public.
The expansion into helmeted sports other than football comes on the heels of new research that allows for better prediction of sports-related concussions resulting from linear and rotational head accelerations. These accelerations result from head impacts that cause the head to translate and twist about the neck. The new research is published this month in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering.
(The peer-reviewed study is available online for free download from the journal.) http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10439-012-0731-0 The new research is being funded by Virginia Tech, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science at Virginia Tech.
New ratings for football helmets will include data for linear and rotational accelerations starting in 2015, said Duma, professor of biomedical engineering and department head of the Virginia Tech - Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences. Serving as lead author on the research paper is Steven Rowson, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Virginia Tech.
"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," said 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."
The helmet rating system is based on more than a decade of data collection by Duma and his research staff, and utilizes the STAR, or Summation of Tests for the Analysis of Risk, formula that assesses the ability of football helmets to reduce concussion risk. Sport-specific testing methodologies will be added to the website that lists the rated helmets prior to the initial release of each sport's helmets ratings.
Using data collected from more than 63,000 head impacts during a period of 10 years, Duma and Rowson related linear and rotational head acceleration to the probability of sustaining a concussion in the form of an injury risk function.
"This new analysis utilizes data measured from 62 concussions sustained by high school, college, and professional football players," said Rowson. "We use these data to determine the best method to predict concussions when we test helmets in our laboratory."
In their research paper, the researchers write, "With as many as 3.8 million sports-related concussions occurring annually in the United States and research suggesting possible long term neurodegenerative processes resulting from repetitive concussions, reducing the incidence of concussion in sports has become a public health priority."