The Advanced Technology Behind Today’s Helmets – And How Far They’ve Come

It’s universally understood that the brain is the operating system of the body. It is easily the most vital and delicate organ in us. Obviously its protection should be of the utmost importance. Surprisingly though, many players have been opposed to the implementation of extra protective measures in their sport. In fact, the governing bodies of these professional sports leagues have actually had to mandate the usage of helmets! This is astonishing considering the serious injuries and even deaths we have seen on the field. Here’s a breakdown of four popular sports that require the usage of helmets, and how far the technology has come.

Baseball

After the deaths of Ray Chapman and Jim Rogers – who were both hit by pitches, it astonishingly took the MLB another 50+ years to make helmet usage mandatory. Even more surprisingly, many players were upset by it. Because of this, the MLB added in a “grandfather clause”. It said that all players who previously hadn’t worn a helmet before, could finish off their careers without wearing them.

With baseball players today consistently throwing balls over 100 mph (160 kmh), and a record high number of batters getting hit by pitches, it is a very good thing that in 2013 a new helmet was designed – and required to be worn. The Rawlings S100 Pro Comp is made of a carbon fiber shell. This is 300 times stiffer and 130 times stronger than the previous plastic models. It is very possible that several careers may have been saved thanks to this new technology.

American Football

American Football has arguably had the most controversy surrounding it due to safety concerns. That may be because of the hundreds of concussions suffered every year in the NFL. Nevertheless, they have actually been some of the most progressive throughout its history in injury prevention though.

The first NFL helmet was invented in 1893, and since then, about every 10 years a new safety breakthrough arises. Today, the next big up and coming advancement seems to be helmets that measure the amount of force from a hit. It will warn players and coaches of possible head injuries. Multiple companies have already begun the process. However, that is not to take away from the state of the art design behind today’s helmets. The Vicis Zero1 is the go-to in the NFL right now. Its hard shell, memory foam padding, and titanium face mask are keeping players safer than ever before.

Cricket

Cricket Helmets

The 2014 death of cricket batsman Phil Hughes brought shock all around the sporting world. It immediately brought forth conversations about the need for new helmets. This isn’t surprising considering the fact that helmets weren’t even commonplace in cricket until the 1970s – and they hadn’t improved much since then.

The helmets today have extended face masks that cover a more extensive area – protecting not only the head and face, but also the neck now. The model of helmet that Hughes was wearing during his accident did not cover as much critical space. They have since been taken off of shelves worldwide and are now completely replaced.

Hockey

Ice Hockey Player with helmet and face mask

Hockey prides itself on being a very “tough” sport. Players can be hit in the head with a puck, stick, or opposing players shoulder at any time. Unbelievably, there were players that didn’t use helmets all the way up until 1996! Since then it has become mandatory for all NHL players to wear a helmet though, and for all minor league players to wear a helmet and a face mask. In all likelihood, the top tier players will be forced to wear face masks soon as well.

The current helmets are made of vinyl nitrile. These disperse force from the point of contact. A vast improvement from the flimsy plastic of only 40 years ago. They seem to be working with hockey concussions seemingly dropping since its introduction.

Thankfully we have reached a point where there is a universal belief and understanding that athletes’ health is important. Gladly, thanks to huge advancements in protective technology we have almost nothing to worry about on the field anymore. So what are you waiting for? Play awaits! Get out there and have some fun!

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