The Playbook

Football and Racing Meet

Where Racing and Football Meet: The Case For Soft-Shell Technology from One of Racing’s Most Acclaimed Engineers

According to renowned author James Webb Young, “an idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements.” Young continues on, saying “the capacity to bring old elements into new combinations depends largely on the ability to see relationships.” This adage has much to offer the sport of football today. Is it possible that the principle that will solve football’s head protection dilemma has already been founded, implemented and proven on the racetrack?

There are roughly 3.8 million sports-related concussions in the United States every year. As alarming as these numbers are, even more alarming is that they do not account for cumulative sub-concussive blows that are shown to cause even more damage over time. The issue of concussive and sub-concussive injury continues to make headlines and capture mind-share as the long-term destructiveness of football-induced TBIs becomes more and more apparent.

It seems that everyone is watching as football, one of the world’s most contact-intensive sports, strives to innovate–to make a move that will improve safety for all who play the game. Meanwhile, the fracture-preventing helmet technologies of yesteryear continue to be released into the market today–doing little to nothing to directly reduce the occurrence of traumatic brain injury due to blunt force impact.

Enter Dr. Dean Sicking, acclaimed engineer and head safety revolutionary in the sport of auto racing. Sicking is the man behind what auto racing calls the SAFER barrier (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction). This soft barrier has a remarkable ability to absorb the G-forces of race car crashes–a capability that led to its mandate and implementation in the walls of every race track across America. And SAFER works. Since the barrier became mandatory over a decade ago, not one NASCAR driver has lost his life in a crash.

According to Dr. Sicking, the same principle behind SAFER has its place on the football field today. Sicking asserts that the key to improving head safety in the sport of football is improving the energy absorption and dissipation of the helmet. “The helmet shell itself needs to absorb more energy,” a recent ESPN article quotes Sicking. And though the industry follows standards for the inner padding of football helmets, Sicking points to a redesign of the outer shell of the helmet as the premier game changer.

Energy absorption is the key–but it’s not the only consideration. According to Sicking, the solution must also maintain a low level of surface tension that allows helmets to slide relative to one another. ESPN quotes Sicking again, “There are drawbacks to the air-cushion idea. You can’t just willy-nilly start making the shell of helmets soft. They will interlock as one helmet contacts another one…The helmets wouldn’t slide relative to one another.”

ProTech wasn’t the brainchild of Dr. Sicking–but its creators do share his treasured ability to see relationships and innovate using observable principles. It occurred to me while reading Dr. Sicking’s words that ProTech follows his advice to a tee. Founded upon the basic principle that a collision between two soft objects results in significant energy dissipation, the ProTech is a soft-shell helmet add on designed to form-fit the outer shell of the helmet on which it is placed.

And like SAFER, ProTech’s effectiveness has been proven. Several respected independent laboratories stand by the product’s ability to actually reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury due to blunt force impact.

In closing, I’d like to summarize the technology behind ProTech–a technology that tightly aligns with Sicking’s insights and has the power to revolutionize head protection in the sport:

  1. Minute Movement Technology: ProTech leverages minute movement technology, which means that upon impact, the cover moves slightly over the helmet beneath it, deflecting harmful impact away from the head.
  2. Football’s First Airbag: ProTech’s specialized polyurethane foam absorbs energy caused by hits to the cover. Because the ProTech is highly absorptive, the cover acts like an airbag, delaying impact to the head.
  3. Deflection of Glancing Blows: When compared to conventional helmets made with polycarbonate or ABS materials, the ProTech has a more slippery surface, resulting in the deflection of glancing blows—one of the leading causes of head trauma.
  4. Reduced Surface Area: The ProTech’s unique manufacturing technique produces small microscopic dimples on the cover’s exterior. Though unseen, these dimples effectively reduce surface area by up to 50 percent, adding to the cover’s effectiveness.

Want to learn more? Contact Defend Your Head or order now.