5 Ways Science WILL MAKE Football Safer

(Image: © Dan Thornberg/Shutterstock.com)

Bone-crunching hits and flying tackles are part of why is football fun to view, however they are also section of the reason the activity is currently facing scrutiny over the serious head injuries that it could bring.

Now, in response to concerns from the general public and players about injuries, research into making football safer has turned into a leading topic of discussion for the NFL and several sports medicine organizations, professionals say.

A study published the other day by THE BRAND NEW York Times revealed that concussion research from the National Football League (NFL) was incomplete to the idea to be misleading. Based on the right times, data that the NFL found in 13 peer-reviewed articles, which supported the NFL’s claims that brain injuries from football cause no extended injury to players, overlooked over 100 diagnosed concussions, like the injury that ended the career of Steve Young.

THE DAYS figured the league’s database was compiled to create concussions appear less frequent than they actually were.

Meanwhile, recent research has suggested that concussions might raise the risk of health problems later in life, specifically, cognitive decline which may be from the development of dementia. Here are a few noticeable changes to the overall game that researchers and scientists think could reduce concussion risk in football.

1. Define concussions

There are no standardized requirements for diagnosing concussions. Symptoms could be wide-ranging, including issues with vision, hearing, memory, coordination and focus. They are able to vary in intensity and might not be noticed until days following the injury. [10 Things You Didn’t FIND OUT ABOUT the Brain]

«Most [doctors] accept a headache after a potential head injury as a ‘concussion’ or ‘mild traumatic brain injury,'» said Dr. Jamshid Ghajar, a director and neurosurgeon of the Stanford Concussion and Brain Performance Center. «However, headaches aren’t specific to brain trauma — 90 percent of [the] public have headaches at least one time annually,» he said. This insufficient constant concussion diagnosis standards likely leads to the underreporting of concussion.

Researchers are trying to create objective requirements for concussion diagnosis currently, Ghajar told Live Science. Issues with attention or balance impairments carrying out a blow to the top is going to be portion of the criteria, he said.

2. New helmets

Improved designs for helmets are getting much attention in concussion prevention research. For instance, the $1,500 Vicis Zero1 helmet was created with a soft outer layer that crumples (and bounces back) after impact. The crumple zone decreases a direct effect.

Researchers at UCLA will work to develop a fresh microlattice material for football helmets. (Image credit: UCLA)

And researchers at UCLA will work on an energy-absorbing microlattice material, called Architected Lattice, that could replace the foam inside football helmets and absorb a few of the energy from impacts. This lattice has been proven to lessen peak impact force by 26 percent when compared to conventional foam now found in football helmets, said Larry Carlson, director of advanced materials at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and section of the team developing this lattice.

Both these helmet innovations were Round One winners at the top Health Challenge II, a contest for researchers focusing on enhancing designs, and the Vicis Zero1 was among the final winners of the contest. But helmets will not prevent concussions by themselves. Ghajar said their real purpose is to safeguard against skull fractures and scalp injuries, and that the concussions derive from the movement of the neck.

Othe designs for new helmets add a bristly textile with spring-like fibers designed to replace foam in helmets, an interior suspension system that could permit the inner layer of the helmet to go independently of the outer layer, and a multi-layered helmet made up of the original polycarbonate shell, flexible plastic, and a material which has the consistency of dried tar.

Erik Swartz, chair and professor of the department of kinesiology at the University of New Hampshire, agreed that helmets and other improvements in equipment shall help to make football safer. But he also sometimes said that, the relative line between enhancing things and making them worse is fuzzy.

For instance, helmets that are heavy could raise the mass of the head and too, therefore, acceleration. Soft shells that reduce the magnitude of the force also usually raise the amount of time over which that force is applied. Swartz said this may lead to an elevated threat of neck injury.

3. Neck stabilization

Both Swartz and Ghajar concur that enhancing neck support is very important to reducing concussions in football. «The flexible neck is making concussions,» Ghajar said. Restricting neck motion, or reducing how quickly the neck motion boosts or decreases, may help prevent concussion, he said. Ghajar pointed to NASCAR’s Head and Neck Support (HANS) device, which really is a restraint that tethers a driver’s helmet to a shoulder harness. This product isn’t ideal for contact sports, but could give researchers ideas for stabilizing the neck to avoid concussions.

AMERICA Army Research Lab, in research funded by the top Health Challenge II, has begun focus on a tether system that uses fluid-filled elastic straps to lessen sudden head motion. The straps would attach from a player’s waist and torso (with a lightweight harness) to underneath of his helmet and become a shock absorber, as the fluid in the straps becomes increasingly solid when stressed.

When force is applied, these tethers harden to improve resistance and decelerate the motion of the top during impact. These are particularly designed to address backward falls. [10 Technologies THAT MAY Transform Your Life]

4. Mouth guards

(Image credit: Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock.com)

Some research shows that football players may reduce their threat of concussion by wearing better mouth guards. For instance, a 2014 study published generally Dentistryfound that senior high school football players who used custom-made mouth guards suffered half as much mild traumatic brain injuries and concussions as those that used over-the-counter mouth guards (3.6 percent versus 8.3 percent). The scholarly study included 412 players, 220 of whom were assigned to wear custom mouth guards randomly. However, research published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2014 found the contrary effect: A report greater than 2,000 senior high school football players discovered that custom-fitted mouth guards increased sport-related concussion risk by 60 percent, compared generic guards.

Mouth guards can prevent injuries to one’s teeth, lips, jaw and tongue, but their usefulness with regards to concussion prevention remains unclear. «Usage of mouth guards is most likely among the areas which has minimal amount of quality evidence,» Swartz said. In 2012, mouth guard company Brain-Pad came under fire from the Federal Trade Commission for claims that its product could drive back concussions.

5. Helmetless training

It sounds contradictory, but Swartz’s research shows that having players practice without helmets could make them safer. «We’re just trying to take benefit of the vulnerability someone feels [when see your face doesn’t have] protective equipment on,» he said.

Called the Helmetless Tackling Training (HuTT) intervention program, this research contains having players practice tackling and blocking without their helmets. In a single study with 50 University of New Hampshire football players, half of the players were assigned to accomplish 5-minute tackling drills at 50 to 75 percent effort without helmets or shoulder pads, twice weekly through the preseason as soon as a week through the season. When compared to 25 players who were assigned to apply noncontact football skills instead of these drills, the helmetless drill group suffered 28 percent fewer head impacts.

Swartz said his program is aimed toward studying nonprofessional football currently, and that the researchers want to review youth football next. But helmetless training alone won’t resolve football’s concussion problems, he said. Better equipment and behavior change will both be essential to address this presssing issue. [Chronic Brain Disease: What’s CTE?with every possible intervention and innovation ]

Even, short of drastic changes to the overall game, football players will be at risk for concussions always. For this good reason, Swartz cautions against looking hard for answers to this issue too.

«Concussions happen in football due to the type of the activity and we shouldn’t feel just like we need to portray the overall game as something we are able to remove concussions from or make safe,» he said. «Compared to other sports and alternative activities, it isn’t safe. That is the nature of the overall game.»

Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Initial article on Live Science.

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5 Ways Science WILL MAKE Football Safer