The Effects of Helmet Padding, Drop Angle, and Position of Impact on the Acceleration of the Head in a Football-related Collision

Professional football players use similar equipment in order to efficiently reduce head injuries while maintaining a high level of speed and agility. Recently, the NFL has imposed more strict rules to limit head injuries, such as concussions, which are caused by a rapid acceleration of the brain. The researchers attempted to discover the effects of helmet padding, drop angle, and position of impact in order to create a better helmet. To do this, an accelerometer was attached to a mannequin head, which was then inserted into a football helmet and attached to a stand. A weighted bucket was hung from the ceiling and dropped with pendulum-like motion to collide with the helmet. The data was separated into front and back trials, then a 2-Factor DOE was used to compare the effects of helmet padding and drop angle. A 2-Sample t-Test was used to compare accelerations of the front and back positions of impact. The effect of drop angle, which determines velocity of impact, significantly increased acceleration, while helmet padding significantly decreased acceleration for front positioned trials. There was no difference in acceleration of front and back trials, meaning that current helmets are useful regardless of location of collision. Because helmet padding decreases acceleration, if more helmet padding is added to a helmet, acceleration of the brain will decrease. The positive effect of drop angle proved that, as velocity of the striking force increases, acceleration of the brain increases. Because there wasn’t a significant interaction effect between drop angle and helmet padding, a higher amount of helmet padding will decrease acceleration no matter what the speed of impact is.

Research Done By:

Kevin Dewandler
Fraser High School

Mark Trombley
Fraser High School