Two years before the season of the concussion, designer Bert Straus invented a football helmet designed to prevent concussions, called the Gladiator, that features an extra layer of foam on top of the hard plastic. But with the rampant concussion concern in 2010, the product is beginning to gain traction, according to a BusinessWeek story.Straus claims the exterior layer of foam would absorb violent hits better, and significantly reduce concussions.
The concept is reminiscent of the ProCap design (pictured to the right), that a handful of players sported in the early 90s. Though anecdotal evidence suggests the helmet was successful in limiting concussions, it never caught on.
The Gladiator aims for a more aesthetically pleasing design, but it’s just marginally better. Which is exactly why it’s unlikely to catch on in the NFL. While lineman are often willing to ditch form for function, skill position players – the ones most likely to get jarred by a vicious blow to the head – are not. They would probably claim the bigger helmets limit their speed to avoid having to wear it.
There’s also the toughness factor. The same NFL doctrine that mandates players play without sleeves in the snow, immediately pop up after getting hit, and play through the injuries that result from those hits, would prevent them from donning a helmet that looks like it comes from outer space in the name of protection.
That points back to the problems with the concussion discussion as a whole. While onlookers want as safe a playing field as possible, players don’t seem to care. They step on the field well aware of the dangers – that’s why they occasionally compare themselves to soldiers – and willingly subscribe to the leaguewide dogma that every play could be their last.
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