For the past few years, researchers at the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory have battered and bashed all types of helmets to see what happens. They find that while the top of most football headgear is strong enough, the sides and back are only about 1/300th as stiff as the average human skull. A blow in this area will "bottom" (dent in) onto a player's head, causing possible brain concussion. And the straps or padding in all helmets do not adequately absorb a blow.
The experts have now devised a helmet patterned after a pilot's. They call it a "Beam-Pad." Made of strong yet light Fiberglas with a new arrangement of support straps called "geodetic suspension system" (strips covering the head in a great circle), the newly developed headgear can withstand a 2,000-pound-per-inch blow. This is nearly twice the impact of the unstoppable fullback meeting the immovable guard. The outer shell is covered with padding material to protect "the other guy."
So far, it looks as though this helmet may be the answer. Now being field-tested by the Cornell football squad, it should be available for other schools for the '55 season. The lab's next project: to develop better protective gear for shoulders and thighs.
RIGHT IN THE TEETH
The average school annually spends from $90 up to outfit each player. Colleges spend as much as $200 or more. "But there is little if any protection," complain three Chicago dentists in The Journal of the American Dental Association, for the region where 52% of injuries occur—the teeth. While the trainers' association disputes this figure, pointing out that their study shows all head injuries total only some 16%, everyone agrees that chipped or knocked-out teeth are the most expensive of all injuries suffered on the gridiron.
This year, at least three newly devised mouth protectors are being tested. Each is patterned after a boxer's mouthpiece, made of rubber and molded to fit the player's mouth. Missing teeth almost cost one team victory earlier this season. During the Oklahoma-Texas Christian game, Jimmy Harris, who had had his two front teeth knocked out in practice, was at quarterback replacing Oklahoma's injured Gene Calame. "I couldn't make the team understand me in the huddle," says Harris. "Especially when I tried to call our 50 series (a hand-off from quarterback to fullback). I had to repeat it several times. I kept lisping 'thifty.' "