In his 8th grade physics class, entrepreneur Bob Bayer learned about Sir Isaac Newton’s Second Law of Motion, F=MA. Now Bayer, who holds 15 patents, is applying that formula to develop a safer football helmet.
To attenuate potential impact damage to player’s brains, Bayer has designed a helmet, the HitGard®, which he feels will help reduce the risk of concussion and other head injuries.
His patent pending helmet consists of two components. The Upper Section can move in any direction upon impact and slowly return to its original position, thus absorbing much of the energy of a blow. This section will temporarily move/shift independently of the head which is anchored inside the lower section. The anchoring consists of a high performance material which can absorb up to 90% of energy when impacted. The wearer’s head extends upwardly into an air void and thus does not touch the inner surface of the helmet.
In addition, the Upper Section is made from a pliable material that will temporarily deform and flex inwardly upon impact and return to its original position. To help protect against lacerations and skull fractures, the outer shell surface is constructed of an impact resistant material.
Newton’s formula conveys that as the duration of the impact time is increased, the resulting force is decreased. To reduce the acceleration of the head, and in turn the brain, Bayer’s innovative design results in an extended duration time due to the flexing nature of the upper section.
Bayer recognized that for decades, years after their playing days, football players and other athletes have grappled with the effects of head injuries, including memory loss and depression. He felt the need to create a protective helmet for not only those players, but also for young players, 5-13, whose young brains need protection.
His Asheville, NC workshop is filled with material samples and pieces of plastic and foam. His design goal is to develop a smaller profile helmet, lighter weight than current helmets, with a “softer” pliable outer surface. Bayer says that for years helmet manufacturers have just been adding layers of foam and air pockets to the inside of their stiff and heavy shells, but that “out of the box” thinking has not been incorporated. His aim is to change that. “A smaller, lighter weight, pliable helmet prevents players from using their helmets as dangerous weapons, even accidentally,” he states.
Most significantly, the HitGard Helmet addresses the all-important issue of rotational acceleration of the brain within the skull. Many researchers feel that rotational acceleration is as important, and is perhaps even more important, than the relationship of linear acceleration to brain injuries.
For over 30 years, helmets have been required to meet the NOCSAE (National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment) certification standards. Up until this year, this test was applicable only to linear rotation of the brain inside the skull…when the head receives a relatively straight-line impact. Conventional hard-shelled helmets do a good job of reducing the potential for skull fractures and lacerations, but do little to reduce the effects of rotational or oblique hits to the head. Concussive hits to the head and repetitive sub-concussive hits can result in injury to the brain. Bayer’s goal is to develop a helmet that helps reduce dramatic motion of the head and the corresponding rotational acceleration of the brain.
Bayer is a 5-year mechanical engineering graduate of Cornell University. He successfully started up, operated, and sold two medical device manufacturing companies. He has been granted 15 patents for medical devices. Three more are pending.
Initial testing of his prototypes at a leading research laboratory indicates a significant reduction in rotational acceleration when compared to leading helmets.
Lacrosse, hockey, cycling, skiing and equestrian helmets, plus boxing and soccer headbands and military helmets, are other markets in which this technology can be incorporated.
Hanging on the wall of Bayer’s workshop is a 1973 framed plaque which reads:
Many Men Have Made Their Fortunes By
Manufacturing Uncomplicated Products
And Marketing Them With Single-Minded
Concentration. You Have Got To Believe
In Your Product So Strongly That You
Can Overcome The Doubts Of Others.
YOU NEED VISION ENOUGH TO GET AN
IDEA, COURAGE ENOUGH TO PURSUE IT.