Inspired by the way a ribbed plastic bottle was able to cushion soft and hard blows with equal aplomb, former Harvard quarterback Vin Ferrara has developed a new football helmet that’s being heralded as “the greatest advance in helmet design in at least 30 years.” Designed to reduce the sudden and violent acceleration and deceleration of the head and the brain after impact and reduce concussions, Ferrara’s helmet utilizes 18 shock absorbers attached to a bonnet inside the shell of the helmet that gradually release air to dissipate the energy from impacts. Traditional helmets use foam inserts. The disks are made of thermoplastic urethane with small holes that allows the air to flow in and out. Depending on the strength of the impact, they will either compress faster or slower to create more resistance to the impact force.
In addition to compressing more completely than dense foam, which allows for the energy to dissipate over a longer period, reducing impact force, Ferrara’s shock absorbers also last much longer, able to withstand hundreds of impacts without any notable degradation in performance.
According to Dr. Gerry Gioia, a pediatric neuropsychologist:
Foams have only had a certain amount of success in absorbing force. Think of what crumple zones in cars meant to reducing injuries. That’s the idea behind this technology — this does what it’s supposed to do better than any other.