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Celebration of Scholarship and Creative Activity 2021

Impact Characteristics of Two Different American Football Helmet Types During Collisions

Jenna Hawk

Senior, Rehabilitation Science

Brianna Roberts

Senior, Kinesiology

Abstract

Improvements in helmet design and technology that have reduced head motion during American football collisions. Despite these improvements, those that play the sport still receive head injuries. Our purpose was to determine which of two commonly used helmet types (Vicis and Riddell) were associated with biomechanics less likely to lead to head injury. Using a force plate (insert make and model) connected to a motion capture system, we conducted linear drop tests from four different heights (5 ft, 6.5 ft, 8.5 ft, and 10 ft) for both helmets. A 10 lbs dumbbell was strapped inside the helmets for each trial to mimic the weight of a human head. Three trials were conducted at each height for each helmet type. Peak force, peak instantaneous loading, and peak linear accelerations for each helmet type were calculated. Helmet types were compared for each dependent variable using independent t-tests (alpha < 0.05). The Vicis Zero1 helmet had lower helmet acceleration than the Riddell helmet, and this was independent of drop height. Therefore, based on measured impact biomechanics, the Vicis helmet may reduce head trauma risk and reduce the amount of collision related head injuries as compared to the Riddell helmet.

Project Background 

Both of us have had a great interest in concussion and chronic traumatic encephalopathy as we have gone through the kinesiology curriculum. When deciding on what to pursue as our research topic, we agreed that it would be in our best interest to focus on head trauma. Fortunately, we had connections to the UW Oshkosh football team, and we were able to use them as a resource. We went through a long process of finding research that has already been done on collisions in American football to complete our literature review and finalize our study. Throughout the course of our research, covid affected our study greatly. We had originally planned to use our UWO football team as human subjects to identify forces applied to the helmets during an actual collision. However, when the college sent everyone home because of the pandemic in March 2020, we had to rework our whole project. We still wanted to research the force a helmet undergoes during a collision, but the collision would have to be between the helmet and the ground.

What Do You Think? 

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15 Comments

  1. John Daley

    This was a very well put together research. I have always wondered about the big difference between the two helmet brands. I knew that the Viscs was superior to the speed flex, but the price tag was never something that I wanted to spend. I am on the UWO Football team and last year we had the option to either use the speed flex helmet or we could purchase the Viscs for ourselves. If I remember right the price tag was right around $1000. The price difference was probably the main reason that Viscs is now out of business which is very unfortunate being that they were better than the rest of the competition. Hopefully, another brand takes Viscs spot so Riddell has competition and will update their helmets to be more effective.

    Reply
    • Brianna Roberts

      Thank you. My thoughts exactly! Some of the UWO football players I have talked to about helmets told me similar things. It is quite unfortunate that Vicis was so expensive, hence why I felt some sort of fundraising should be put forth to allow the best care for each player. Hopefully Riddell will continue enhancing helmet technology and focusing on how to best protect the athletes that use their helmets. Maybe Schutt will be the next big helmet contender?

      Reply
    • Jenna Hawk

      Thank you!! I was actually unaware that Vicis went out of business. It is unfortunate that players have to sacrifice their safety because of a price tag so I would agree that either Riddell needs to step up their game or another brand should create better technology at a lower cost.

      Reply
  2. Paula McNiel

    Very informative and enlightening. Well done! I know what helmet I would want to recommend and wear! This does offer evidence to support fund raising stressing safety for our players!

    Reply
    • Brianna Roberts

      Thank you!

      Reply
    • Jenna Hawk

      Thank you! I am hoping that this information will be used to support more funding for player safety.

      Reply
  3. Debbie Gray Patton

    Such importance research! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Brianna Roberts

      Thanks for checking out our research!

      Reply
    • Jenna Hawk

      Thank you so much!

      Reply
  4. Abbie Klemko

    I found your presentation to be very interesting as I have always enjoyed sports. I guess I never really thought about the different safety measure different types of helmets would have. In reality I think it is so important to know all of the facts before stepping out on any court, field or game of play. I thought it was very cool that you tied into your research the UWO football team. Great work!

    Reply
    • Brianna Roberts

      Thank you! Before thinking about conducting our research, I personally hadn’t put much thought into just how different the helmet technology and designs can be for each helmet brand as I have never used one. I am just glad our research has got people thinking about helmet safety and how important it is to find the best protection for an athlete.

      Reply
    • Jenna Hawk

      Thank you Abbie! It was a goal of ours to bring awareness of helmet safety not just to the UWO football team but many others as well!

      Reply
  5. Bryce Herlache

    Great work you two!! It is amazing to see how far this project and research has come! Also, thank you for the shout out. It was an honor to work aside you all.

    Reply
    • Brianna Roberts

      Thank you so much Bryce!

      Reply
    • Jenna Hawk

      Thanks for your help Bryce! And congrats on your research as well!

      Reply

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