Multi-Directional Impact Protection System Helmets Making Sports Safer
Over the last few years the subject of impacts to the head in sports has been making the headlines, especially in the NFL. This hard-hitting sport has been the subject of numerous discussions and reviews on the topic with both professionals and the media. Will Smith’s Concussion, about an accomplished physician in Pittsburgh who uncovers the truth about brain damage in football players from repeated concussions, generated even more interest in the matter last year. So, what’s being done about it to make sports safer? Enter MIPS, the Multi-Directional Impact Protection System.
Back in 1995, Swedish neurosurgeon Hans Von Holst began examining how helmets were constructed. He came to the conclusion that helmets, as they existed at the time, were simply inadequate in providing necessary protection against brain trauma, the consequences of which are concussions and often times worse. Six years later, in 2001, MIPS AB was formally founded in Stockholm for the purpose of developing safer head protection technology for players. The group has succeeded in designing a system that is quickly being picked up by more and more helmet manufacturers.
So far, the technology has been applied to several high-end helmets like the Lazer Z1 and POC’s Octal, but it’s also made its way into kids’ helmets such as Giro’s Scamp and Foray. Additionally, since the NFL’s chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) revelations, MIPS is also set for use in some football helmets. At this point, a diagnosis for CTE can only be made postmortem, but an increasing number of former players are reporting symptoms of the condition. In 2013, roughly 4,500 former players involved in a class action lawsuit against the NFL alleging that it covered up a mounting body of medical evidence concerning head-trauma related CTE in ex players reached a settlement with the league to the tune of $765 million.
The design behind the MIPS technology is pretty simple. The helmet is separated into two distinct layers. The inner layer is designed to allow sliding and rotation on impact, thus doing away with a certain amount of the rotational force behind the collision before making its way to the wearer’s brain. Basically, it displaces some of the energy the brain would otherwise absorb, which, in essence, protects the brain from incurring serious injury. Hockey players, cyclists and football players usually take a beating from a variety of directions before it’s all said and done.
Testing of the design concept is actually pretty sophisticated. Because helmets seldom come in contact with hard surfaces in a straightforward manner and there’s usually some banging around occurring first, MIPS drops their helmets onto a flat, moving platform to simulate road surfaces at speed. They also make use of the stationary anvil test, as used by NOCSAE and Wile E. Coyote. The crash dummy’s head is fitted with nine accelerometers for measuring linear force transmitted during impact. The information generated is then fed into a computer and translated into rotational acceleration.
Through this testing the researchers have discovered that radians per second squared (standard metric for rotation) can be reduced by as much as a whopping 55 percent. This is pretty impressive. Over the next few years we should begin to see more and more helmet manufacturers including this kind of technology in their products. For more information on the technology, visit the MIPS Website.