Athletes everywhere are always looking for a way to gain that extra inch, half second, or mile per hour that will change their game. Across all forms of athletics, sports training aids have been a way for competitors to increase strength and improve form through repetition. One of the more common types of training aids is a resistance device using weights or weighted equipment. We have all seen the baseball bat weighted ring, a weighted basketball, or one of the countless golf training tools. But what these all have in common is that they are sport specific. Younger athletes are often involved in a multitude of activities, playing different sports every season of the year. This has meant you were buying different training aids for different sports, filling your garage up with gadgets that were going to get your son or daughter a full ride. One company addressed this issue and designed a weighted training aid that work for a variety of sports like never before.
This company was LaceUp, and their idea was the Training Lace. This bendable, weighted “Lace” allows you to add weight to your bat, stick, wrist, racket, and more! Available in several different weights, the Training Lace is making an impact across the sports spectrum. Originally designed as a weight for a lacrosse stick, the Training Lace has become more dynamic than was originally thought. Now it is being worn by basketball players and swimmers on their wrists, tennis players on their rackets, baseball and softball players on their bats, as well as ice and field hockey players on their sticks. The list seems to be continuously growing, and new ways to use this little device are being developed every day.
What makes the Training Lace so valuable beyond its versatility is its adjustability. Specifically looking at it as a baseball training aid, this bat weight is different than your traditional ring. Unlike other baseball bat weights, the Training Lace does not move on contact, thus keeping the swing smooth which allows you to maintain form. The other unique feature is that you can move the weighted lace to different areas of the bat to focus on specific parts of the swing. Put the Lace on the middle of the bat to target bat path and plane. Move it down towards the handle to work on getting the “knob to the ball” and preventing you from letting your hands lag or drag. Using the Training Lace in batting practice or the cages can lead you to see an immediate improvement in your swing.
LaceUp has designed a product that truly can benefit athletes everywhere. From youth sports to the professional level, the Training Lace develops strength that will enhance performance. Lace up your training regime with the Training Lace today.
The football community has been anxiously awaiting the newest unveiling from helmet manufacturer Schutt. It’s been years of research, development, and prototypes, but the time has come. Worn by the best professional and collegiate players, and now available for purchase, is the innovative Schutt F7 football helmet. Using the most advanced impact absorption system on the football field, the F7 is a revolutionary new level of protection.
When first seeing the new F7, the most apparent and important new design feature is the Schutt Tektonic Plates. These separated panels of poly-carbonate, with TPU cushion below, are specifically placed in the areas of the helmet most susceptible to big collisions. Adding these independently moving external layers allows the helmet to better absorb the impacts experience on the field, and improves the helmets performance against rotational forces.
One staple in the Schutt football helmets is their use of TPU Cushioning. Proven as an elite absorption material in any climate, the new F7 football helmet is loaded with. Featuring TPU in the Tektonic plates, the lining of the inside, and a newly design front pad. Developed to provide the same level of protection hit after hit, throughout a long season.
A feature found in several of the new football helmets from Schutt is their Helmet Stabilization System (HSS). A large jaw pad configuration that frames the face delivers a more secure fit. Constructed from impact foam wrapped in fireman leather, the helmet is more comfortable than ever. Also part of the HSS design are the stabilizers on the inside and outside of the helmet, which provide strength and durability.
Just like a luxury car, the features on this seem to be endless. Titanium facemask make it 60% lighter and extremely durable. Rapid Release quarter turn hardware let you take the facemask on and off quickly. The SUREFIT Air Liner allows you to easily adjust the helmets fit with the addition or subtraction of air. All of this is found on the most advance helmet shell ever produced by Schutt. Engineered Flexural Resistance in the back shelf and temporal wings allow the TPU Cushioning below the surface to perform at its best.
While the impacts on the football field are still momentous, and the repercussions significant, the Schutt F7 is an step in the right direction in making the game we love safer. It will take more creative thinking, like that which went into the designs of the F7, that will continue to push the advancement of protection for football players everywhere.
Most of those involved in youth baseball have had the date of September 1st, 2017 circled on their calendar for some time now. That is because this will be the first day you can buy a new USA Baseball certified bat, which will be the requirement for a large majority of the youth leagues come January 1st, 2018. This is part of a campaign that was designed to create “wood-like” performance standard in hopes of preserving long term integrity of the sport. Bat manufacturers have spent the last two years redesigning their bats to meet the new certification standards, and will begin selling them this coming Friday.
So who is that affecting? These standards will now be enforced on players under the age of 14 player in the leagues sanctioned by the following organizations:
American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC)
Amateur Athletic Union (AAU)
Babe Ruth Baseball/Cal Ripken Baseball
Dixie Youth Baseball
Little League Baseball
This does not affect those participation in leagues or travel clubs under USSSA (United States Specialty Sports Association). Tee ball play will be impacted as well, but will allow more leniency as a certification sticker program that lets players to continue to use their current bats will be available.
So what is changing? With these new certifications comes a new standard of performance. Currently, the required Bat Performance Factor (BPF) was at 1.15. The new standard will be lower to replicate that of wooden bat. In a separate but comparable rating system, the performance testing used on NCAA/NFHS bats sets a limit at .500 BBCOR. The new USABats will be at .530 on that same BBCOR scale. Other changes will be that players in these leagues are now able to use the larger 2-5/8” barrels, and no drop weight limit means younger players can still use bats made from lightweight materials.
Some of that may seem a bit technical, but the gist is that the new standards will translate to a similar performance of a natural wooden bat. The good part of this process is that the bat manufacturers have done all the hard work. Companies like Easton and Rawlings have been tirelessly working to deliver the same reliability in the batter’s box that many players call on. As of Friday, you will get a look at their latest lab creations and see what they’ve cooked up for 2018. All you’ll have to be sure of is that the bats have the USABat certification stamp seen below.
You can also be sure that Sports Unlimited will have the best youth baseball bats for 2018 in stock and ready for same-day shipping. Check them out for all your baseball equipment needs for next season.
Since last October, SportsUnlimited.com has been operating on a brand new platform. After years of designing and developing their new website, the ecommerce sporting goods retailer has looked to provide its customers with an unrivaled shopping experience. As part of this process, new features have been added in throughout the last year, all aimed ti and give consumers more options. Their latest unveiling has been well received, and allows Sports Unlimited to do what they do best (football) in a whole new way.
If you were searching for some new football equipment, then Sports Unlimited was probably already on your radar. As the largest online football store, they stock more helmets, shoulder pads, and training equipment than any other football retailer. What that has meant for football players, coaches, and parents alike, is that they can get the gear the need shipped out same day. With more and more players and parents wanting control of the gear they wear on the field, having quick and easy access to the safest helmets and pads on the market has been essential.
This August, Sports Unlimited took that quick football service a step further, rolling out their Custom Football Helmet builder. Now you not only have the ability to choose from Riddell and Schutt’s latest helmets, but you can also select the facemask, chinstrap, and colors of each. This new customizable football helmet experience is made possible by two contributing factors. Sports Unlimited’s extensive stocks of helmets and accessories, and a step by step selection process.
To take advantage of this new feature offered by Sports Unlimited, simply visit the website (www.SportsUnlimited.com) and select your favorite Riddell or Schutt Helmet. On the right hand side of the page, you’ll find all your customizable options. Firstly, you’ll want to select this and color of your helmet. The large picture of the helmet will reflect the change in colors, as you select from an assortment of options.
Next you’ll get to decide which facemask style you want, along with its color. This process used to be complicated and time consuming, as certain helmets require specific facemasks. But Sports Unlimited has done the hard work here and separated the options that will work for your helmet. Choosing a facemask is also important, as different positions prefer different styles. Wide Receivers and Quarterbacks want more open masks so they can see the field. Linemen on both sides of the ball want larger more protective mask to prevent injuries when they are battling in the trenches. Simply select the style and the colors available will populate.
Choosing your Football chinstrap is done the same way as the helmet and face. Choose from the traditional soft shell or select hard cup protection in a range of colors and sizes.
The final step in the custom football helmet construction is a facemask attachment option. This allow you decide if you would like one of the professionals at Sports Unlimited to attach your new facemask to the helmet.
Sports Unlimited won’t be the first retailer to offer helmets and facemasks in different colors, but their large selection and fast same-day shipping make it tough to beat. Whether you shopping on a desktop, tablet, or mobile phone, this process is simple and easy to understand. As parents and players gear up for this upcoming football season, be sure to check out the new custom football helmet designer at Sports Unlimited.
Preseason football is back, college camps are grinding it out, and football season is so close we can almost taste it. As we approach the final few weeks of summer and the imminent first games, we take one last look at some of the 2017 football equipment being used this fall. Our concluding football equipment review looks at some of the gear the senior level players will be wearing to elevate their performance. The ability to run faster, catch better, and recover quicker are features that elite level players are looking for. Any edge that can be obtained could be the difference between a win and a loss, a playoff spot, or a championship season.
The Under Armour Spotlight football cleat can be described in two words, speed and style. This lightweight, low cut football cleat is a serious show stopper. When you are competing at this level, the most important characteristics are fit and feel. Under Armour has delivered on these fronts with several design features like the SpeedForm construction, a Pedax external heel counter, and a seamless molded heel cup all help lock this cleat to your foot. This allows you to cut and pivot with confidence, and change direction on a dime. On the outside, and Icy Diamond synthetic upper puts you in the “spotlight”, while the chrome TPU cleat plate lets the opposition see their reflection as you speed past them. As Under Armour brand ambassador Deion Sanders once said, “look good, feel good. Feel good, play good. Play good, they pay good.” The Spotlight football cleats from Under Armour will have them adding zeros to the conversation.
While looking good on the football field maybe important, protection is essential. The higher the level of play, that hard the hits you’ll take. That is why any extra padding can keep players on the field and off the IR. The newly designed 5-Pad Protective Shirt from Sports Unlimited is just what you’ll need to handle the rigors of a long season. Perforated foam padding helps shield the ribs, spine, and shoulders from big impacts. Flexible and covered in a breathable mesh, the pads won’t restrict player mobility. The compression fit shirt works great underneath the shoulder pads, and keeps the extra padding in its place. Available in both black and white, the Sports Unlimited 5 Pad Protective Shirt is worth adding to your game day collision defense.
Athletes in all sports have begun to discover the importance of compression apparel. From increased performance to improved recovery, compression gear can really be the difference maker for an elite athlete. Australian based company SKINS have been focusing on the impact of compression gear on athlete’s performance since 1996. Now developing over 160 products sold in 31 countries, their importance can no longer be ignored. The DNAmic Men’s Compression Tights is a staple product of the SKINS brand, offering several crucial benefits to players performance. The Dynamic Gradient Compression provides the support and stability muscles need for proper oxygenation which helps reduce the buildup of lactate acid. Wearing the compression gear post workout or competition also helps improve recovery speeds by increasing blood flow. Complete with moisture wicking fabrics to keep you cool under pressure, the SKINS DNAmic Men’s Compression Tights can become a real asset to a serious athlete’s performance.
Sticking with the importance of compression, we look at what Nike has delivered with their Pro Combat Dri-Fit Playcoach. Wrist coaches have become so important as the game continues to speed up. Offenses are now snapping the ball at an accelerated rate to keep the pace up and tire out the defense. Players on both sides of the ball rely on the wrist coach to quickly get the play call, so they can begin to interpret what’s in front of them. The Nike wrist coach allows players to clearly read plays with it larger windows, and stays in place when the need it to. Using the compression Dri-fit fabric, the playcoach doesn’t slide on the arm like other knit based products, allowing players to focus on what’s important. It also features a built in belt loop for those who prefer it on their waist. Step to the line of scrimmage with confidence with the Pro Combat Dri-Fit Playcoach.
Every player on the field wants to have the confidence in themselves that they’ll make the big play when the opportunity arises. One way to build that confidence is to give your hands some added grip to make that catch, intercept that pass, or scoop up that fumble. The S651 Gamer 2.0 from Cutters is just what your hands have been looking for. Recently redesigned, these perfect all-around option providing the grip of a receiver glove, with some added flexible padding for protection. Featuring Cutters patented C-Tack, these gloves perform well in any weather you might see. Lightweight, yet durable, these versatile gloves are a real game changer.
August is just a few days and away, and football season is even that much closer. Final preparations are being made before camp, as teams and players look to be ready to hit the ground running at the sound of the first whistle. Part two of our 2017 Youth Football Equipment Review takes a look at some of the other gear you might decide to upgrade before the season starts. We covered the essential protection in part one with the helmet, shoulder pads, back plate, and rib protector. But we’ll turn our attention to base layers protection, footwear, and other accessories for this installment. While some of these items may not be as important when it comes to protecting a players, they can be the difference maker when it comes to performance.
As one of the most popular items in the Sports Unlimited football apparel line, the integrated football girdle has been redesigned and taken to a new level for 2017. The use of an integrated girdle has become a staple in most football player’s equipment bags. A newly added lightweight foam with zig-zag pattern has improved the range of motion without sacrificing any protection. Complete coverage is offered with its 5-Pad system, shielding the hips, thighs, and tailbones from heavy impacts. Its compression fit keeps the pads in place, making sure they are in the right place at the right time. The SU girdle also comes with a pocket for a cup if you wanted to add some extra protection. Works great for youth football, including flag football players that want some addition protection on the field.
Known for making gear that protects better than the rest, the Rival Pro 5-Pad Integrated Shirt from McDavid follows their long tradition. This protective under shirt allows players at any position to give themselves some additional protection, without limiting their mobility. Its 5-Pads cover the area most susceptible to hits, including the shoulders, spine, and ribs. Made from EVA foam, the Flex Air padding was designed with multi-directional vented flex channels for increase air flow to keep you cool. The bio-shape design and compression fit keep the pads in place underneath the shoulder pads. The McDavid Rival Pro Padded Shirt makes for a reliable inclusion to any players game day gear.
Few players in the game can perform as well as Cam Newton does in the spotlight. But thanks to Under Armour, you can get off on the right foot by lacing up his signature cleats, the C1N MC Jr. These youth football cleats let every player feel like they can take on anything that comes at them on the football field. A mold cleat base provides great traction when making turns and cuts. A compression fit sleeve makes these feel light on your feet, and the reinforced upper offers support and breathability. Have your future star stand out with the new Under Armour Cam Newton youth football cleats.
Build catching confidence from the first practice with the Adidas Adifast 2.0 youth receiver gloves. Designed to make bringing in the ball easier than ever, the scaled down version of the professional gloves give every youth football player an advantage. The palm features the exclusive Adidas GRIPTACK design that help you make the tough catches in any weather. A compression fit is achieved with the a Honeycomb thumb and molded rubber tab, keeping the glove secure and in place. Stand out on the field with both style and performance with the Adidas Adifast 2.0 football gloves.
No piece of equipment has seen its popularity grow over the years more than the football visor. It seems more players have visors every year, and youth football is no exception. While the style can be appreciated by most, the additional protection cannot be denied. The Nike Gridiron Eyeshield provides players an extra layer of defense from the perils of tackle football. The Nike Max Optics design features a wrapped lens that reduces distortion, giving you a clear view in every direction. The curved shape allows it to fit most helmets, and its polycarbonate construction is scratch and shatter resistant. See the game better than ever with the Nike Gridiron football visor.
Even the most casual football fans know the importance of a safe and protective helmet when engaged in competition. With the force and speed of the game, it is essential players equip themselves with a quality helmet. But one piece of the puzzle that is often overlooked, even by the most seasoned players, it’s that of the chin strap. Previously only seen as a way of securing the helmet to the head, the role of the football chin strap has transformed into playing a pivotal part in protecting players.
Helmet manufacturers and sports equipment companies alike have all seen the chin strap as an opportunity to provide players another line of protection from the impacts on the football field. Using the latest technology and protective materials, each has developed a product that will not only be more comfortable, but far more valuable in offering another layer of defense. We’re going to take a look at our Top 5 Football Chin Straps, giving you some insight on gearing up for next season.
As one of the leading helmet manufacturers, it’s of no surprising that they have also developed a high quality chin strap. The Elite Hard Cup from Schutt is everything you would expect in an upgraded chinstrap. The hard plastic shell offers an excellent shield against the big hits. The foam uni-cup design uses an integrated splitter for extra strength, as well as providing a comfortable custom fit. Available in both Youth and Adult sizes, the Schutt Elite Hard Cup is a great choice when improving your protection.
Few brands in sports do style and protection as well as Under Armour, and the Gameday Armour Pro chin strap exceeds expectations on both fronts. Designed to perform as good as it looks, the anodized finish sets the bar very high. But the Armour Flex outer shell is incredible durable and withstands the rigors of a tough football season. Also featuring an internal pad that is removable and washable, and a perforated design that improves breathability. This Under Armour Football Chin Strap offers the protection you need with the look you desire.
SportStar may be a brand that is unfamiliar to many. But when it comes to chin strap protection, very few can compete. Specializing in the production of chin staps, SportStar has taken a science first approach, looking to make the chinstap as advanced as modern day helmets. Rated as one of the safest chin straps on the market, the GX-4 is constructed from 4 different pieces to help absorb blows and prevent concussions. The patented GelPad disperse energy and offers a custom fit for every player. Also featuring a high density EVA foam and a NASA engineered plastic shell, GX-4 is not short on technological designs. Even with all the protective measures, the SportStar chinstrap is also a stand out in appearance. The GX-4 is fully customizable, allowing you to perfectly match your team’s colors.
Like Schutt, Riddell is the maker of the helmets most trusted by the game’s elite. The TCP chin strap is the top level of protection offered by Riddell, making it a serious contender for our top rated chinstrap. Like the other chin straps on this list, The TCP features a hard outer shell constructed from a durable polycarbonate. Also featuring breathable ventilation and soft padding inside that provides incredible comfort. The TCP chinstrap is also available with the Rachet-Loc attachments, allowing you to wear it with the highly rated Riddell SpeedFlex helmet. The Riddell TCP Chin strap is seen every weekend of the fall on the best players in the world for a reason.
When you’ve spent the time and effort in designing a piece of sporting equipment like SportStar has, being seen as the best is the expectation. The Evolution chin strap showcases an advanced design that with layers of protection. Beginning with a hard outer shell and an non-slip EVA foam that is anatomically molded to absorb impacts. Also featuring the GelPad at the base of the chin, to offer a great custom fit. Once you put on a SportStar chin star, you’ll see exactly why more and more professional players are turning to them. Its unmatched level of protection has made the SportStar Evolution our top ranked football chin strap.
As we continue to build up anticipation for the upcoming football season, we take a closer look at the equipment players will be putting on in just a few short weeks. From high school to the pros, athletes everywhere are in their final preparations before football camp begins. This means gearing up with the necessary protective equipment to handle the bumps and bruises that are on the horizon.
The second installment of our product reviews will focus on the ever important Adult or Varsity equipment. These would be the pads and helmets that players in High School, College, Semi-Pro, and Professionals would be strapping on. With the hits being harder and the game played faster, it’s vital that players have the best possible defense.
No other piece of equipment is under the microscope more than the adult football helmet. With the increased attention on the effects of head injuries, helmet manufactures are being asked to develop safer products for today’s players. Since 1939 Riddell have been producing football helmets, and their latest effort has again pushed the bar a step higher than the rest. The SpeedFlex Helmet has now been around since the 2014 season, and is regularly found on the heads of the best NFL and NCAA players around. What has made this helmet a stand out is the technological designs Riddell has introduced, aimed at reducing the force at impact. The Flex System has engineered flexibility into the helmet shell, facemask, and clips to help absorb the impact of collisions to the head. The Ratchet-Loc retention chin strap was a revolutionary new way of looking at how the helmet is attached, offering a more secure option than was previously thought of. With other stand out features like quick release facemask attachments and a Five-Point inflation for a custom fit, the Riddell SpeedFlex is an excellent option when looking for an upgraded head protection.
Continuing with a focus on technology emphasized protection, the Razor RZ15 All Purpose shoulder pads from Gear Pro-Tec do not disappoint. From a glance, these pads look stealthy and high performance. Under the hood they are much of the same. The SAS-TEC Visco Elastic foam absorbs and flexes better than most of its competition. Range of motion is at premium with 12% more freedom than other pads. The RZ15 also comes with a removable liner that is made up of moisture wicking fabric, allowing you to keep cool in the summer heat. Gear Pro-Tec also makes these shoulder pads for Skilled Position players (RZ7) and Lineman (RZ55). These lightweight pads offer exceptional protection without slowing you down a step.
When you get into varsity level football, extra protection become less optional and more necessary. The addition of a back plate becomes vital for most players, particularly those who find themselves being tackled. The Douglas Custom CP Series removable backplate is all you could ask for. Douglas being one of the most trusted names in shoulder pads, the CP back plate is part of their pro level protection. Durable padding with a hard shell shields the lower back from those unwarranted hits. Extra grommets allow you to customize where the pad sits, and is available in a 4” and 6” option.
In times before, little thought was put into what type of chin strap you were using. Often you would just play with whatever came with the helmet, or perhaps upgrade to a hard shell. SportStar burst onto the scenes offering a range of chin straps that are not only comfortable, but remarkably protective. With a built in gel pad that offers excellent protection, comfort, and fit. The non-slip EVA foam is designed to absorb and disperse the impact from a collision. Complete with a hard outer shell, the SportStar Evolution is what you expect to see the professionals wear on Sunday.
The game of football is always progressing. Whether it’s playing styles, coaching techniques, or safety equipment, continued development is essential to success. With the rise in awareness on the impact of concussions; players, coaches, and equipment manufacturers have been asked to change their thinking, and find ways to make the game we love safer. Helmet manufacturers have continued to design, test, and produce safer helmets for players to wear. The issue being, it will be nearly impossible to develop a concussion proof helmet. The fact is that the game is physical, and being played a pace faster than ever before. What may be more important to protecting players is the rethinking of how we teach and play the game.
Leagues from the NFL down to Pop Warner have changed rules to protect defenseless players, and help limit the amount of traumatic collisions. This has seen some success, but it has far from solved the bigger problem. Some innovative thinkers have looked to other sports to find inspiration on how to make the game safer. One place some turned to is the birthplace of football, the sport of Rugby. More popular overseas, rugby is the pad-less version of football that can almost seems barbaric from a distance. But when you dig in a bit further, you’ll see that the lack of padded protection has forced rugby players and coaches to figure out ways to tackle and contest without putting themselves in harm’s way. By introducing helmets and shoulder pads into a tackle situation, what it has allowed football players in the past to do is turn themselves into a weapon. Without the worries of lasting effects, players for decades have launched head first into collisions. But without this protection, rugby players have devised a different tackling style, that focuses on shoulder placement and wrapping of the arms to take down their opponents. This hasn’t removed concussions from the sport of rugby, but it has allowed for less concussions to occur, particularly when compared to the sport of football.
NFL teams such as the Seattle Seahawks, and college programs like the University of Washington and Ohio State have decided to adapt this “rugby style” of tackling, in hopes protecting their players and improving their performance. In 2014, Ohio State decided to full embrace this technique, with wholesale changes to how the taught, practiced, and executed the tackle. This lead to them not only limiting injuries, but also to an improving their defense and a National Championship.
One important part to teaching the rugby tackling technique was the development of new drills and training equipment. A piece of gear that had been used in rugby for years was the tackle ring. The round bag, designed to replicate a moving player, allowed coaches to teach their players how to readjust their body and perform a safer tackle. Traditional football tackling techniques would have players put their head in front of a ball carrier, using it to slow them down. But the rugby tackling method teaches players to place their heads behind the ball carrier, lessening the likeness of a collision directly to the head, and forcing players to rely on shoulder placement and wrapping of the arms. It is one thing to introduce this new technique on a stationary bag, but it’s the making that adjust on the move that leads to its success. This is where the tackle ring or tackle wheel, plays an instrumental role. It provides safe repetitions for individual players, allowing them to correctly develop or reteach themselves how to perform a safe tackle.
Tackling rings have become an essential part of any teams training regimen. From Pop Warner to the pros, teaching players how to safely tackle will be a crucial step in making football a safer game.
We know the future is bright, as today’s young minds continue to astonish us all with their ingenuity. At Sports Unlimited, we understand the importance of fostering this brilliance, and continued education is a key piece to this equation. That is why the annual Sports Unlimited Scholarship was created, providing assistance to those who will drive us forward.
Requiring an essay submission on a particular topic, the scholarship is awarded to the individual who best displays creative thinking and resourcefulness. This year’s prompt asked students to identify a piece of gear or equipment currently used in a sport and describe how to improve it and why. Over a thousand essays were sent in, each of which described an innovative vision. Covering a range of sports and equipment from football to fencing, basketball to badminton.
This year’s winner took on the popular topic of football helmet improvement, but was able to pull from a unique source of inspiration. Using the design elements of the space shuttle, Paul Wasuwanich of Orlando, Florida was able to provide a compelling argument for how the football helmet should be redeveloped. And because of this, Sports Unlimited was proud to offer him a scholarship of a $1000, as he heads off to the University of Notre Dame this fall.
Astronauts and football players have a lot more in common than many might think. They both work in extreme environment and therefore require extreme protection. Astronauts must survive in the harsh environments of space full of deadly radiation, destructive space debris, and freezing temperatures. Football players, on the other hand, must survive on the dangerous football field full of 300 pound opponents ready to tackle them with up to one ton of force, about 4 times the force required to crush a human skull according the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics . To protect from such threats, engineers have devised multiple defenses to keep astronauts and football players safe. One of those defenses is the helmet.
A football helmet is as important to the player as a space helmet is to an astronaut. Fatality is imminent if that crucial device is absent. It is easy to see how a man would suffocate in space without his space helmet, but harder to visualize the internal damage a football player suffers with each blow to the head. According to statistics from the NFL, there were 271 diagnosed concussions in the 2015 season . Having closely studied the brain with my professor, Dr. Mohtashem Samsam, a neurologist from the University of Central Florida, I understand clearly that the previously mentioned 271 concussions is much more than the number suggests. Concussions result from severe head trauma, but football players receive much more head traumas that do not produce acute effects such as the concussion. A progressive degenerative disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) plagues football players who have received severe or multiple head traumas. In a 2014 study from Boston University, of 79 brains from former NFL players, 76 tested positive for CTE . Brains with CTE are similar in appearance and function to brains with Huntington’s disease.
Today, we are so used to hearing about football concussions that they have become accepted as inevitable, but they are not. Over the years, football equipment has improved, reducing the number of concussions and the severity of brain damage. No helmets became leather helmets, and leather helmets became the modern football helmets we see today. The modern helmet is still not sufficient and can be further improved to reduce the number of concussions even more.
In space, an astronaut’s first line of defense are walls of his spacecraft which are designed to protect against space debris moving at up to an astonishing 17,500 mph . This technology can be applied to the football helmet. The walls of spacecrafts come in my varieties, but they have the same basic design, multiple layers of a thin, light, hard material (e.g. aluminum alloy) with soft material (e.g. foam) in between . The goal of this defense is not to deflect the impacting object as football helmets do, but to significantly reduce the force of the object so that it would not penetrate the inner walls of the spacecraft. The outer walls of the spacecraft do two things to prevent penetration of the spacecraft, one of those is increasing the time it takes the object to hit inner walls. It is a physics concept shown by the formula:
I = FΔt
I = Impulse or change in momentum
F = Force
Δt = Change in time
In this case, the impulse is constant, so by increasing the time of impact, we can decrease the force of object when it hits in the inner wall. Having alternating layers of hard and soft defenses means the object or shock wave must pass through multiple materials with different properties. It takes a shock wave more time to pass through two different materials than one material of the same amount. The football helmet should be designed as such: A thin outer layer of a hard, light material (e.g. carbon fiber), followed by a soft material (e.g. foam), a hard material again, a soft material again, then a thick hard layer, and finally a soft cushion for the head.
Other than increasing the time of impact, the outer walls of the spacecraft also deforms. Deformation, unlike deflection, absorbs the energy of the impact. A football player wearing a helmet that deforms on impact will experience less force to the head than a football player wearing a helmet that deflects the impact force. The reason cars crumble in crashes is not because of the force of impact, but because engineers designed the car to absorb as much energy as possible by deforming in order to protect the driver. Although football helmets that deform on impact will have to be frequently replaced, it is worth the improvement in safety.
Broken bones can heal, torn muscles can be repaired, but dead brain cells cannot be replaced, therefore, head protection in a sport as aggressive as American football is of uttermost importance.
Sports Unlimited would like to thank all of those who submitted an essay for this year’s scholarship. We will be sharing a few of our other finalist’s ideas in the near future. The prompt for the 2018 Sports Unlimited Scholarship will be available soon, so be sure to check back!