Cincy Lifestyle: Burrow’s new helmet is designed to prevent concussions

University of Cincinnati News

September 6, 2023

WCPO’s Cincy Lifestyle highlighted the work of biomedical engineers at the University of Cincinnati who are studying ways to prevent concussions in sports.

UC College of Engineering and Applied Science Professor Eric Nauman and his students are studying what makes some helmets absorb energy better than others.

In his Human Injury Research and Regenerative Technologies Lab in UC’s Bioscience Center, Nauman puts helmets to the test using sensors called accelerometers attached to crash-test dummy heads that they strike with modal hammers that can measure the applied force delivered. This allows researchers to isolate the protection provided by helmets at various points of the head.

In a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Biomechanical Engineering, Nauman tested football helmets made by four leading manufacturers. All four brands scored highest in minimizing impact in at least one of the impact points measured.

Helmets were able to mitigate between 52% and 83% of the translational acceleration — or change in velocity — researchers measured in the hammer strikes. The back of the helmets fared worst in testing, reducing less than half the rotational acceleration of hammer strikes.

Now Nauman and his students are testing the new Vicis Zero 2 helmet that Cincinnati Bengals’ quarterback Joe Burrow began wearing in training camp this year.

But Nauman said his focus is on improving safety in youth football.

“Players that take sometimes 1,000 head impacts over the course of a season will show changes in their brain that are very similar, if not worse, than those diagnosed with concussion,” Nauman told WCPO. “That’s when we realized that preventing injury meant we needed better helmets.”

Nauman said the new Vicis Zero 2 has a internal padding along with an outer shell that deforms when struck to absorb more energy from hits.

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