July 21, 2020
MONTREAL — The National Football League is turning to a Montreal university to solve one of the sport’s biggest headaches.
Kollide-ETS, a group of four Montreal-based businesses along with researches from engineering university Ecole de technologie superieure, recently won a grant from the NFL of about $330,000 to produce a football helmet that reduces the risk of concussions.
The research team is among four groups — and the only one from Canada — that won money from the league to compete in the NFL Helmet Challenge. The winning team will receive a million-dollar cash prize and their innovation will be used as a standard for future helmets for NFL players.
Eric Wagnac, a Mechanical Engineering professor at ETS, said there are about 50,000 concussions per year in Canada from people playing sports. Most of those concussions are from football, he added.
“You can have some very negative effects (from) a concussion,” he said Tuesday in an interview. “Especially if you don’t take time to heal correctly from the concussion. Then you could have some long-term damage that you can have to your brain.”
Wagnac and his team are designing 3D-printed padding for a helmet. The padding technology, which is patent-pending, can absorb and redirect impact to lessen head trauma, he said. His team is also using digital simulations to test the helmet’s effectiveness instead of producing multiple prototypes.
In an interview Tuesday, project coordinator Franck Le Naveaux said, “In a one-year project, rather than testing four helmets, we can test four hundred helmets.”
Wagnac said the padding can be custom-built for each individual player and their specific positions.
“Let’s say you’re a lineman or a cornerback,” Wagnac said, “you might sustain different types of impact during the play. What we want to do is to optimize the padding of the helmet so you can sustain these types of impact better.”
The group has until July 2021 to submit their helmet to the league.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2020.
Julian McKenzie, The Canadian Press