Whether someone absorbs a hit by an improvised explosive device or a charging linebacker, the effect can be devastating on the human brain.
Knowing that, researchers from the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center are examining technology developed at the University of Southern Mississippi for football helmets that could one day also help protect soldiers.
A liner system designed at the Southern Mississippi polymer science laboratory, with assistance from the school’s sports medicine department, has been used in the Neuro Responsive Gear, or NRG, helmet produced by Rawlings Sporting Goods. The NRG features a system that combines foam and air bladders to more effectively absorb impacts. The helmet is being used in the National Football League and in the college ranks.
Don Lee, a project engineer in the Headgear Thrust Area of NSRDEC, is now looking at how that technology could apply to military helmets.
“I was approached by the University of Southern Mississippi early last summer,” Lee said. “They had gotten wind that we were doing helmet work, and they had been doing a lot of work with Rawlings on a pneumatic liner system for football helmets, mainly.
“They ended up coming up here and bringing one of their prototype liner systems, and we went over to the helmet lab here at the base and we tested the helmet. It actually showed some good preliminary data for an un-optimized system.”
Lee works to prevent traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs. He understands that once damaged, the brain can’t repair itself and the injury is permanent. He sees potential in the University of Southern Mississippi system.