Research Proposal: Human Factors to Football Helmets Head Neck Injury Different Changes From Begin

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Human Factor - Football Helmets and Neck Injury

The Human Factor: Football Helmets and Neck Injuries

While football is generally a relative safe sport to play with the proper protection, there have still been injuries - and some of them have been severe and even fatal. Because of that, the helmets and other protective gear that have been worn by football players have changed throughout the years in an effort to protect more players and ensure that everyone can enjoy the game safely. From high schools through college and into the professional ranks of football players, helmets are used in order to give everyone who plays the game a feeling of safety and stop them from getting concussions and other injuries when they collide with others and get knocked down. Many players also end up at the bottom of a pile when one team tackles a player from another team, so that weight is something that helmets protect from. Overall, of course, there is no way to completely protect a football player from the problems that can appear when he or she is involved in the game

The best that can be hoped for is that injuries will be reduced and the injuries that are sustained will be less severe because of helmets. But, how did helmets get their start? Why do they look the way they do, and how were they designed? What has happened to them over the years, and what will likely happen to them in the future? These are all questions that will be answered in the following pages, because the evolution of helmets is important to understand. It is part of the human factor in football playing and in engineering. If engineers do not understand how to develop helmets that continue to get better and better, the players who rely on them and expect to use them for protection can end up injured, paralyzed, or even killed. Those kinds of problems are rare, but they are not entirely impossible - and they will be made much less likely with the proper helmets.

It was not until after WWII that helmets actually became popular and started being widely used. From that point, they evolved quite rapidly in response to demand and better engineering. The graphic shown here indicates the kinds of helmets that were created in the early years through the modern day (Source: Gaffney, 2009).

Early Helmets

As can be seen by the above illustration, the football helmet has changed greatly from one era to the next. The early helmets were called "head harnesses," and they mostly just fit over the head and protected (and covered) the ears (Gaffney, 2009). The unfortunate thing about the head harnesses was that they also restricted how well players could hear, and that could spell disaster on the field. These primitive options can be traced all the way back to the 1900s, before the actual helmets that were used after WWII were ever conceived (Gaffney, 2009). Between 1915 and 1917, the soft leather harnesses were reworked and openings for the ears were created. That allowed people who were playing to be able to hear much more easily, and that improved the game and also the safety of the player. These leather caps also had some suspension between their outer covering and the heads of the players, so they were not sitting right on the players' skulls - and that made them safer (Gaffney, 2009).

Of course, leather is only so helpful when it comes to protecting a person's head from danger, and football players can take up to 150 Gs when they are tackled by other players. Because of that, better helmets were still needed - and they were on their way. As the 1920s and then the 1930s arrived, the makers of football helmets began to use both harder leathers and interior padding in an effort to provide further protection for players (Gaffney, 2009). The original helmets were very flat on the top, too, but helmets began to change to a shape that was more like a teardrop. That new shape was much better because it allowed any blows on the side of the skull or even the top of the head to slide off more easily, instead of causing such a strong impact on the actual skull of the player (Gaffney, 2009). While that did not solve all of the injury problems and certainly was not the be-all, end-all of helmet manufacturing, it did help helmets to evolve and protect players more easily.

In 1948, the first mascot was painted on a helmet (A history, n.d.). It was not long after that just about every team was painting a mascot or logo of some kind onto their helmets so that they could show team spirit and be more easily distinguished on the field. Another change that came about around that same time was the facemask. It was a simple, wire-covered rubber device, but it was designed to lower the amazingly large number of broken teeth and broken noses that were seen in the game of football. The mask did what it was designed to do, but it created another problem - men started grabbing one another's facemasks for intimidation (A history, n.d.). Penalties were created for players who grabbed at facemasks, and that slowed down some of the problems. Specific makers of helmets emerged around that time, too. Some of the makers, such as Riddell (2011), are still around to make and develop football helmets in the present day.

Modern Helmets

The modern football helmet is a far cry from what was originally used. The credit for that modern helmet goes to Riddell (2011), which was the company that created the first plastic football helmet. That occurred back in 1939, but the helmet has undergone many changes since that time (Gaffney, 2009). The plastic model helmet was more durable than its leather predecessors, and it was also stronger. In 1940, Riddell moved the strap on the helmet to the chin, instead of its previous place at the Adam's apple, and was involved with the first facemasks. Unfortunately, plastic was a very scarce material during WWII, so some of the early helmets were not as made as well as they could have (and undoubtedly would have) been if the war had not been taking place at the same time. The early plastic helmets were eventually banned in the National Football League (NFL) because one player split nine of them during one season (Gaffney, 2009).

Seeing that plastic helmets were the way to go, but that more had to be done, Riddell quickly made a few adjustments to what they were offering to the football world. In 1949, the plastic helmets were reinstated because the changes had been satisfactorily made and the plastic really was a better option than the leather that was used in the past. The kinds of synthetic plastic that was used was the largest change, because it made the helmets much more durable and they were no longer prone to splitting and cracking when they were hit hard (Gaffney, 2009). Naturally, it is easy to see how much of a serious issue that would be, and how important it was that there was no dangerous of the helmets splitting open. If they could not hold up to the abuse that they would take on the field, they would not be a good choice to protect the heads of the players. Even though helmets continue to evolve and change throughout the years, the earliest Riddell shells that were molded still serve as models for the modern helmets that are created today (Gaffney, 2009).

The facemasks were also changing at the same time as the helmets. The first ones tended to shatter and crack, and they would not provide as much protection that way. Once the helmets were perfected, the facemasks were not far behind. The first improvements provided a single bar, and that evolved into the "birdcage" style that is seen today (Gaffney, 2009). Players who needed even more protection were not able to get that until the 1980s, when helmets with tinted visors were allowed to be used for players who had eye injuries or needed protection for their eyes for some reason. One of the most important things about the modern helmets of today is their polycarbon plastic construction and the high-tech cushioning systems that they use (Gaffney, 2009). If it were not for those two things, it would be very unlikely that the helmets would protect as well as they do now. Still, though, there are specific standards that have to be met and new and innovative changes are always valuable.

Required Standards for Football Helmets

Football helmets have standards that they must meet so that they can be used. The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) is the governing body that controls what helmets must be made of, what they must do, and who must wear them. It certainly… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Human Factors to Football Helmets Head Neck Injury Different Changes From Begin.  (2011, October 27).  Retrieved August 18, 2019, from

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"Human Factors to Football Helmets Head Neck Injury Different Changes From Begin."  October 27, 2011.  Accessed August 18, 2019.