Prediction time... based on what I know of the science (mostly this fantastic article in Popular Science), I’ll be able to feel good about watching American Gridiron Football again after the following changes:
- A weight limit is established somewhere around 250 pounds.
- Helmets incorporate foam to cushion blows but are also designed to spin on an athlete’s head.
- All 22 helmets on the field are networked together to incorporate “bio-feedback”: a powerful electric shock administered to the forehead whenever any two helmets come within an inch of contacting each other.
- Anytime an electric shock was administered, the officials would be notified and would penalize the team deemed to have initiated the helmet to helmet alarm.
- All 22 players line up each play within two yards of the line of scrimmage, every play, including punts and place kicks.
Why and how?
- CTE seems to be caused by multiple brain traumas over time,
- Brain trauma happens when an outside force acts upon the head causing it to accelerate quickly. The brain’s inertia means it collides with the skull, and the inertia of each individual brain cell causes it to crash into its neighbors.
- Force equals mass times acceleration.
- A weight limit would cap the amount of mass that could go into the force of a collision.
- The goal of helmet design would be to redirect the forces of tackling away from the brain in two ways: physically and behaviorally.
- Physically, the helmet would turn the rotational forces of the impact into the rotation of the plastic shell.
- Behaviorally, the electric shocks would train defensive players to tackle and offensive players to attempt to avoid tackles in a manner which protected the head, the way we naturally do when we aren’t wearing a helmet.
The idea would be an old style helmet strapped to your head with a clear plastic shell that rotated freely on an axis mounted at the crown. A big hit would twirl the umbrella, not the head. There would be no specific face mask. The umbrella would be the same on all sides. It wouldn’t have a front or a back.
Finally, the biggest impacts come when two vectors come right at each other, like a safety crashing into a running back breaking through the line or when two teams crash together on a kickoff. If everyone started each play at the line of scrimmage, the vectors wouldn’t be additive like that because both teams would start in roughly the same place and be consistently running in the same direction.