Tackling Brain Injury in Sport
Dr Peter Theobald
13th December 2017
Clinical understanding of the brain continues to advance, providing an increasingly robust scientific platform for correlating the cause and effect of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Recent understanding includes appreciating the relatively high injury risk associated with the rotational 'component' (as opposed to the vertical component) of a head impact, with this platform now enabling identification of environments that may represent greater TBI risk. A series of contact sports have recently introduced enhanced protocols for the in-game management of potential TBIs, with head protection strategies in American football being particularly advanced, in-part driven by the accepted correlation that elite-level participation causes an elevated TBI risk.
Existing head protection technologies typically utilise closed cell foams, such as vinyl nitrile and expanded polystyrene, which have been the predominant materials in multi- and single-impact helmets for decades. This presentation focusses on the research and development of novel, high-performance material structures that appear capable of enhanced energy absorption. It will consider our use of computational simulation and our adoption of additive manufacturing, the combination of which has enabled design and fabrication of high-performance materials formed of complex, origami-derived structural geometries. Initial results from this design approach have proven positive, whilst longer-term potential exists to 'mass manufacture for one', producing solutions tailored to an individual's specific anatomy. This research may ultimately lead to the introduction of truly 'personalised', protective equipment.
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