Study Finds That Many Football Players Don’t Inflate Helmets

inflatable football helmetInflatable bladders help helmets fit snugly and absorb and redistribute force from a blow to the head. Wearing helmets with inflatable bladders that fit well can help football players prevent concussions. However, a recent study found that many players wear helmets that do not fit snugly and do not keep their bladders inflated. This can make them more susceptible to concussions.

Researchers at Idaho State University studied 261 high school football players in the Intermountain West region. They found that 97.5 percent of them wore helmets that needed to be inflated every week, but that 43 percent never inflated their helmets during the 12- to 16-week 2013 football season. A total of 87.7 percent did not reinflate their bladders every week as manufacturers recommend.

The researchers found that almost one in five of the study’s participants wore helmets that did not fit correctly. Over 78 percent did not inflate their helmets on a regular basis because they did not believe they needed air.

Nineteen percent said they had been diagnosed with a concussion in the 2013 football season. As many as 87.3 percent reported experiencing at least one concussion symptom, and 56.3 percent experienced three or more concussion symptoms. Players with helmets that did not fit correctly were 3.2 times more likely to be diagnosed with a concussion or to have three or more symptoms of a concussion.

The researchers believe coaches and athletes need to be better educated on how to ensure that helmets fit properly and on the importance of keeping them inflated. They recommend inspecting helmets on a weekly basis and making air pumps available to players. They also suggested that coaches and administrators could purchase helmets that do not need to be inflated.

Inflatable helmet bladders were introduced in 1969. Their design has not changed much in the past 45 years. Many helmet companies have added additional interior padding for extra protection from injury.

Engineers Create Inflatable Concrete Canvas

Concrete CanvasEngineers Peter Brewin and Will Crawford created Concrete Canvas, a form of concrete on a roll that can be inflated and hardened with water. The pair came up with the idea a decade ago when they were both studying at the Royal College of Art in London.

Brewin and Crawford were working at the time on inflatable concrete buildings and were asked to come up with a new use for concrete. They experimented with Modroc, a bandage filled with plaster that is used to mend broken bones, and decided to make inflatable concrete shelters that could be assembled quickly in emergencies, such as natural disasters or military conflicts.

They developed Concrete Canvas, a fabric that is sold in large rolls that harden when sprayed with water. They initially focused on building disaster shelters, which are available in 25-square-meter and 50-square-meter sizes that are delivered in large boxes. A structure is inflated with an electric fan until it can support itself. Then water is applied, and the structure hardens over a period of 24 hours and develops a waterproof and fireproof concrete layer.

Concrete Canvas is sold in three thicknesses. One roll of the mid-thickness material is equivalent to two truckloads of concrete. It can be manipulated into shape on the ground, on a slope, or on top of existing concrete.

Brewin and Crawford encountered some problems trying to sell the shelters. Some governments did not want to build semi-permanent structures in refugee camps. There was also a need for a large number of the shelters that the startup could not meet.

The company was more successful selling rolls of the inflatable concrete material that could be formed into shape on-site. They have supplied Concrete Canvas to cover sandbags in Afghanistan and for a Network Rail project. They realized that they would have more success in the civil construction industry. Concrete Canvas is now used in construction and engineering projects around the world. Only 1 percent of the company’s sales are from shelters.

Brewin and Crawford are focusing their business on the mining, civil infrastructure, and petrochemical industries. They also want to expand into relining and refurbishing existing concrete structures that have become damaged. Brewin and Crawford emphasize the low labor costs associated with Concrete Canvas to potential customers.

MPOWERD Creates Luci EMRG Inflatable Lantern

Luci EMRGMPOWERD, the makers of the original Luci inflatable solar-powered rechargeable lantern, have tweaked its design. The result is the new Luci EMRG that provides a more intense focused beam of light. It can be used as an emergency flashlight, lantern, or emergency flasher. The Luci EMRG is a good alternative to other emergency light sources, such as candles or kerosene lanterns.

Earlier versions of the Luci inflatable lantern provided a soft diffuse glow. The light came from a set of multi-colored LEDs in the base of the lantern. The team redesigned the inflatable lantern to create a more intense beam of light. The Luci EMRG uses four new LEDs that shine brighter to create a beam similar to a flashlight. The LEDs can also glow softer like the original Luci to maximize battery life.

The LED bulbs are powered by a lithium polymer battery that is charged with a small (75mA) built-in solar panel. The Luci EMRG’s batteries are concealed in the waterproof inflatable lantern. They can be powered using a solar cell built into the bottom of the lantern. Eight hours of sunlight are needed to completely charge the battery.

The batteries can run for about seven hours on a full charge. The battery can retain 95 percent charge per month while in storage. It can be charged up to 3,000 times, which means it can provide about 10 years of daily use. The LED bulbs can deliver up to 25 lumens, which is enough to light a 10’ x 10’ room.

The Luci EMRG is ultra-compact. The inflatable lantern is 4” x 4” and weighs 2.5 ounces. It collapses down to 1” tall for storage or transport and is compact enough to fit in a glove box, bag, or emergency kit. The phthalate-free PVC housing is shatterproof and waterproof up to one meter.

NASA Working on Inflatable Heat Shield for Mars Landing

NASA Mars inflatableEngineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia are working on a lightweight inflatable heat shield that they hope to use to land astronauts on Mars in the 2030s.

The engineers are working on a project called the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator, which resembles a set of stacking rings similar to a popular toy for infants. The researchers hope to use the rings to slow a spacecraft as it enters the Martian atmosphere.

The HIAD will be inflated with nitrogen and covered with a thermal blanket. After it is deployed, the rings will sit above the spacecraft, resembling a mushroom.

The inflatable heat shield could enable astronauts to land on the red planet’s southern plains at high altitudes. Those areas would be inaccessible with other technology.

NASA needs to develop new technology to land on Mars because the spacecraft that will be used will be larger than any used previously. Current heat shield technology weighs too much for the mission. NASA has used parachute-based decelerators to land on Mars since the Viking program in the 1970s. Parachutes would not be a feasible option for landing a large spacecraft with astronauts on Mars.

The moon has no atmosphere, so rockets can be used to land spacecraft. However, that is not possible on Mars, which has an atmosphere that is thinner than Earth’s. Not using propulsion to land on Mars will also reduce the amount of fuel the astronauts will need to carry along for the mission.

Orbital Sciences Corp. invited NASA to launch an experimental second-generation inflatable spacecraft aboard an unmanned private rocket to the International Space Station in October, but the experiment was not ready in time. The rocket exploded soon after it lifted off from Wallops Island, Virginia, and several experiments were destroyed.

The experiment is now scheduled to be launched with the next Antares rocket in 2016. It will test how second-generation inflatable spacecraft technology will perform when it reenters Earth’s atmosphere.

Smaller inflatable experiments have been launched on rockets before, but they have never been sent into orbit. Information gained from earlier projects will be used in the experiment scheduled for 2016.

NASA faces other challenges in getting humans to Mars by the 2030s. Engineers will have to design new in-space propulsion systems, advanced spacesuits, long-term living habitats on board the spacecraft, and deep space communications systems.