NFL Head Health Challenge Announces Awards

The winning technologies were selected from more than 400 submitted research proposals

The Head Health Challenge is broken down into three distinct phases designed to identify or better diagnose concussions, treat them more successfully and prevent them from happening, and the third challenge is aimed at using various innovations to mitigate the impact to the head resulting from a collision.

Phase III results are expected to be announced in coming weeks.

“I don’t want to ever compare the NFL with what goes on on the battlefield, but there are similarities,” Jeff Miller, NFL Vice President of Health and Safety, told Scout Warrior in an interview. “We have established a good and open dialogue with the military. When we meet with them, we share some of the research we are doing. We're sharing as much as we can with them.”

The mutual interest is, in many respects, self-evident. The NFL naturally seeks to reduce the incidents of concussions on the football field, treat them successfully and more quickly diagnose them when they happen. Such developments would of course better protect players from more serious long-term injury while also allowing them to more quickly return to a game in some instances if it is determined with certainty that there is no concussion. NFL officials tell Scout Warrior they are extremely committed to this effort and optimistic about the results it is beginning to yield.

2014, the Army Research Laboratory won a $500,000 research grant from the NFL’s Head Health Challenge to develop an innovative "tethering" technology. The "tethering" technology has now been announced as a final Phase II winner and will therfore continue its development.

Called “rate-actuated tethers,” the Army-developed innovation uses tethers which stretch and relax at low speeds but dramatically harden when pulled quickly, an Army statement said.

The head protection concept attaches the head to the shoulders, allowing for free range of motion under normal conditions and stiffening to protect the head from injury upon impact, the service explains.

“They came up with a rather novel idea. A tether system that could slow the acceleration or movement upon impact. They are looking for ways to use that technology in the military as well as applications in contact sports so that the head and the torso are tethered together and deter some of the forces that cause concussions,” Jeff Miller said.

The technology could, in theory, connect Army helmets to the body or connect NFL helmets to shoulder pads – dramatically reducing impact to the head upon collision by virtue of the hardening tethers.

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