“If the NFL wants concussion-free football, they’ll need to redesign football.”
In the eyes of physics, a big hit on the field can be just as devastating as a car crash—or in many cases, worse. We’re expecting a mere 1.5 inches of foam and candy shell to decelerate a player’s head gently enough to prevent their brain from bouncing around inside their skull. After talking to some of the brightest minds in helmet design, helmet testing and football physics, the elephant in the room became clear: A concussion-proof helmet is a pipe dream.
“’I think that it’s true that football helmets are 85% as good as they’re ever going to get,’ Dr. Timothy Gay, University of Nebraska physics professor, writer and industry helmet consultant tells me. ‘The optimal football helmet won’t be much better than the helmet you can buy right now because there are just physics retrains on the kind of padding you can use. We have a pretty good micro, nanotechnological understanding of how materials work. And basically, there are limits on what padding materials can do for a giving thickness.’”