While an aching head may seem an obvious indicator of harm, athletes don’t always recognize the severity of injury, or become concerned too late. If a helmet could indicate the severity of a blow suffered by the wearer, then questions of when to seek medical attention may be eliminated.
And such a helmet is being developed for skiers. The helmet contains seven accelerometers – sensors that measure changes in velocity – that continuously monitor the forces experienced by the head. For example, if a skier were to take a tumble, the sensors in the helmet would keep a record of the forces exerted on the head as a result of the body’s de-acceleration during the fall.
A sporting goods manufacturer, Riddell, currently sells a similar type of football helmet, which measures impact data and sends this information wirelessly to the sidelines where computers are being monitored by coaching and medical staff. Riddell’s helmet sells for $1,030.99.
A helmet often prevents an injury, but in the case that it did not, a ‘smart’ ski helmet would alert the skier to the severity of the fall. The ski accident that led to the death of actress Natasha Richardson last year is an obvious example of the benefit of such a helmet.
At this point, the ski helmet is a lab tool and not a consumer product. The helmet will aid in work to study traumatic brain injury – the kind that doesn’t cause obvious brain tissue damage – within the first 24 hours of impact. The hope is to understand what is happening at the microscopic level in order to prevent potential brain damage.