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Taking the hit before taking the shot: What your hockey helmet isn't protecting you from

Researchers are developing improvements for hockey helmets in order to prevent concussions.
Image Credit: istock photo
August 27, 2014 - 3:20 PM

THOMPSON/OKANAGAN - It’s easily the most important piece of your hockey gear; you’re not even allowed on the ice without it even though the helmet you have now isn’t doing much to prevent concussions. But there could be significant changes in the works to adapt it.

Paul van Donkelaar is the director of UBC-O’s school of health and exercise sciences. He, along with other researchers at England’s Imperial College and Helios Technology are working to develop a gel-like hockey helmet lining to prevent concussions.

“It’s called armour gel....the material dissipates the force (because) it gets transmitted into the tissue that it’s protecting. It seems to be quite effective and so the next step is to try and see if it can be effective in hockey helmets,” says van Donkelaar.

Armour gel has already been introduced in protective arm and leg gear used for sports like motocross and downhill biking. But the helmet prototype will be the first of its kind.

Currently the gel is being tested at a lab belonging to van Donkelaar’s colleague. To measure the amount of force it can absorb, lab participants are placing the gel on model heads equipped with force sensors and smashing them – for science, of course.

“He smashes head forms into solid walls and floors,” says van Donkelaar with a laugh. “We want to go down and actually watch when they do the testing and maybe get to drop a few heads ourselves.”

Van Donkelaar says traditional hockey helmets are specialized to prevent skull fractures, but don’t really do much in the way of preventing the “epidemic” of concussions.

“Most hockey helmets and football helmets have some type of cushioning... that is fairly homogenous. It can definitely soften the blow... (they) don’t directly protect against concussion, although they help.”

The challenge for van Donkelaar and his team is equipping the helmet with the right placement of armour gel to withstand different types of hits on all areas of the skull.

“It’s remarkable how receptive it is (to force),” van Donkelaar says adding it will rebound and last longer than padding competitors have on the shelf.

The gel-helmet prototype is expected around August of 2015. Van Donkelaar says if all goes well, it will be tested on hockey teams and may one day end up distributed en masse.

Watch van Donkelaar describe the concussion process in more detail below:

Credit: UBC Okanagan

To contact a reporter for this story, email, or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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