Football helmets, fitted with powerful magnets, could reduce the risk of concussions by 80-percent


According to a 2012 survey, nearly 1.2 million Americans, including amateurs and professionals, play football, making it the most popular sport in the United States. Furthermore, the National Football League is one of the world’s most watched sporting events, garnering a yearly revenue of around $10 billion. Over the years, however, the American football has witnessed a significant drop in participation, with about 40-percent of the parents being reluctant to let their children play the game, mainly due to concerns over concussions. A new research shows that attaching magnets to the football helmets could help decrease the risk of concussions and other brain injuries.

While on the field, the players can run at a speed of about 20 miles per hour, which means that they can encounter impacts with severity of up to 150 g’s. Concussions, especially among young people, takes place at impacts greater than 100 g’s. Multiple concussions can lead to permanent brain damage, causing lifelong impairments. Studies have shown that around 100,000 concussions, of varying intensity, occur every year among both amateur and professional athletes.

That is where the magnets come in handy. Their repulsive force restricts the magnitude of the impacts even before they take place. After experimenting with different varieties, Colello and his colleagues have zeroed in on magnets made from the rare-earth element neodymium. Produced in China, these magnets are the strongest commercially available ones and weigh only about one-third of a pound; almost negligible when compared to a football helmet, whose total weight ranges between 3.5 and 5.5 pounds. A repulsive force of nearly 100 pounds is generated when two magnets, with the same poles facing each other, are placed one-fourth of an inch apart, inside the helmet.


Magnet-Fitted-Helmets-4In order to test the efficiency of the magnets, Colello used the same technique that the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment uses to assess the quality of football helmets. The team attached the magnet atop a weight, and then dropped it from varying heights(between 6 inches and 4 feet) onto a second magnet. The heights, through which the magnet fell, actually stand for the impact forces experienced by the players while on the field. At the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, held on November 15, Virginia Commonwealth University scientist Raymond Colello said:

At 48 inches, if you dropped a standard helmet and it hit a stationary object, it would create 120 g’s of force…With the magnets we drop that below 100 g’s.

Affixing magnets to the helmet would likely increase the total price by $50 to $100. Colello will be using custom-designed arch-shaped magnets, that can be easily placed inside the helmets. The team of researchers will start with dummy heads, in order to measure the linear and rotational forces of impact during collision. Although these specialized helmets have not yet been tested on actual players, Judy Cameron of the University of Pittsburgh claims that the breakthrough could theoretically decrease the risk of concussions by a staggering 80-percent. She said:

…a lot of thought has gone into it, and the data that was shown about the ability of the magnets to actually repel each other looked extremely promising.

Magnet-Fitted-Helmets_3However, there are some questions regarding the feasibility of the contraption. Although the National Football League forbids players from wearing jewellery and other accessories during games, the fact that magnets attract metallic objects can indeed prove to be inconvenient, in terms of practicability. Furthermore, having such strong magnets so close to the human brain might be dangerous. Colello points out that the risk of undergoing a 30-mintute to one-hour session of MRI is 10 to 30 times greater than the magnets present inside the helmet.

Via: Science News 

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