Purdue helmet liner designed to mitigate football head injuries


In Lafayette, number seven is on the diamond now. No football for him.

"It seems like the emphasis in football is hit hard as you can. Don't worry if you hurt somebody," said John Howell, who decided to sideline Brandon until he's older.

These baseball fans have seen the stories: football players now suffering serious brain injuries after careers filled with hits to the head.

This week a former NFL player - Junior Seau - committed suicide. Now his family wants his brain examined.

"We don't know why Junior committed suicide. It will be all the more sad if it's from a history of hitting his head," said Evan Breedlove, Purdue University.

Purdue researchers have followed Lafayette Jeff players for three years. With helmet sensors measuring impacts, they're finding it's not just one big hit that injures brains but rather, seasons of many smaller hits.

"This is very much a serious concern and one that has to be addressed now," said Breedlove.

Purdue University's Dr. Thomas Talavage shows us the new football helmet interior padding Purdue is developing. "Silicone based material," he explained. "When you push it in it continues to give."

The new crushable pads arranged inside helmets give more than rigid pads used now. "The key is here," said Dr. Talavage. "The padding acts as the crumple zone of a car. Your car collapses and in general your passenger compartment remains relatively intact."

Improvements could come outside too. It may seem odd but in the case of helmets protecting against brain injuries, flexible could be better than stiff.

Eric Nauman of Purdue added, "Anytime you can get it to flex or deform without doing damage to the helmet will absorb energy and transfer less energy to the skull or brain."

And more flexible helmets, they say, could stop hard hits because those hits wouldn't be as effective.

So improvements are coming. Meanwhile, Brandon will stick with sliding in home.