When it comes to sports-related concussions, it seems clear that either the games need to change or the prevention approaches need to change. While the former seems unlikely, the latter is where the money is being spent. New technologies and new materials are being investigated that can help prevent head injuries as well as detect them early and help players receive timely treatment.
The Head Health Challenge II, a collaborative effort between the NFL, GE and Under Armour (UA), recently announced the seven funding finalists of its head injury prevention design challenge. Each organization chosen will receive $500,000 grants to develop technology to better protect against concussions and brain injury, and the winners will also have the opportunity to receive an additional $1,000,000. The University of Washington (UW) and its commercial partner, Vicis, Inc., announced on Monday that their joint endeavor was one of the seven chosen. Other winners include the Army Research Laboratory in Baltimore; Emory University in Atlanta; UCLA and partner Architected Materials, Inc.; the University Of Miami Miller School Of Medicine in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and partner Neuro Kinetics, Inc.; the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH; and Viconic, Inc. of Detroit.
The winning proposals cover a wide array of approaches. The University of New Hampshire is developing a helmet-less tackling training system that aims to change players’ behavior, and UCLA and Architected Materials are working on a new energy-absorbing microlattice material that protects the player’s head better inside the helmet. Emory University and the University of Miami are applying their skills to better injury detection systems, and Viconic is looking at a proposed under layer for synthetic turf systems that will make fields safer for all players.
The consortium said it was looking to highlight “disruptive” technologies that could truly make a difference in player safety going forward.
“Each of these seven winners will help advance the science towards our shared goal of making sports safer,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the announcement of the winners of the challenge. “New materials, equipment designs and technology breakthroughs will better protect athletes, no matter what sport they play. We are looking forward to supporting their next stages of development.”
The winners were chosen from a pool of 500 proposals from 19 countries. The Consortium says it plans to monitor the progress of the seven initiatives during the next year, and will reward up to five of the winning teams with an additional $1,000,000 in 2015, provided they continue their innovation and apply it toward viable commercialization.
Each of the winning finalists produced a video outlining their proposals. These are available on the Head Health Challenge Web site.