Sometimes big ideas come from small, unexpected places. Products like Velcro and Teflon coating came about as results of happy accidents rather than direct research. Along those lines, a team studying the vibrations inside football helmets could contribute to a safer future in the sport.
In September, the National Football League donated $30 million to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health to fund research into brain injuries and other medical issues. The league has been working to toughen its standards and find ways to better diagnose concussions in the wake of lawsuits from retired players who say the NFL did not warn them properly about the dangers of head injuries.
Physicist Murray Korman of the U.S. Naval Academy, along with student Duncan Miller, developed a simple experimental model to study helmet-to-helmet collisions. Working with limited time and money, the pair had to get creative as they built their testing rig. The headgear turned out to be the easy part — the academy’s athletic department donated a pair of shiny, golden helmets from the football program.