If you had to make helmets safer -- be it for football or cycling -- how would you go about it? Adding more padding? Thicker straps? Researchers at Simon Fraser University in Surrey, British Columbia, have come up with a more unique approach: easy-to-apply stickers that reduce friction during an impact.
Some of the most dangerous head injuries in sports like football are the result of the helmet (and the head inside) quickly rotating when they make contact with the ground or other surfaces. The helmet's smooth outer surface is designed to reduce friction so that it slides instead of twists, but often the forces involved are just too intense for that to happen.
That's where these unique BrainShield decals from Shield-X Technology (the company spun off from the research done at Simon Fraser University) come into play. They can be produced in almost any shape, with any design printed on them (think a sports team's logo), but are actually made of several layers of specially engineered materials that easily separate under the frictional forces of an impact. Think of it as the skin of an onion peeling off in an impact, allowing the rest of the onion to continue sliding along with minimal twisting.
In real world testing with high school football teams, the BrainShield stickers were found to dramatically reduce the number of concussions suffered by players in a season. Because they can be applied as easy as a decal, the BrainShields can be used to upgrade almost any helmet, and they can be quickly replaced in the middle of a football game as needed.
Following additional testing, Shield-X Technology is hoping to mass-produce its BrainShield decals as early as 2016 through a crowdfunding campaign, producing generic versions that can be applied to any helmet, or custom versions for professional teams who rely on their branding.