Concussion prevention: Pig brain used to develop helmet

A team of researchers at Mississippi State University are creating a new football helmet and mouthguard designed to take concussion prevention to a whole new level.

"The helmet we are going to design will be safer than the current helmets out on the market right now," said Dr. Mark Horstemeyer, CAVS chair professor in mechanical engineering at Mississippi State University.

The new football helmet will be ready in 2015 and will have a Kevlar based frame, rams horn inspired inner foam lining, and a magnesium alloy face mask.

"Once we have this new design, we believe it's going to be better than the standard practice for mitigating shocks," said Dr. Horstemeyer.

But that's not all.

The researchers are also developing a mouth guard with a motion-recording accelerometer inside to monitor concussions.

"We use [the mouth guard] in conjunction with software to detect concussion" said Alston Rush, PHD student in biomedical engineering.

The concussion detection software is an app on a mobile device, and will notify trainers if a football player has been hit at a dangerous level.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report approximately 1.6 to 3.8 million sports related concussions occur in the United States each year.

"But nobody has the simulation based design that we have, based on the damage inside of the brain," said Dr. Horstemeyer.

Not only is the helmet designed with real brain simulations, it's also tested with real pig brains to better understand concussions in the game of football.

"Pig brain is an almost perfect substitute for human subjects," said Robbyn Bertucci, PHD student in agricultural and Biomedical Engineering.

They test the pig brain by sticking the raw piece of flesh between two poles that collide under a pressure released mechanism.  The pig brain explodes and data is collected to see how the flesh of brains react to high impact scenarios.

"We're able to take that and predict how these brains would really deform inside of a helmet," said Wilburn Whittington, PHD student in mechanical engineering.

The mouth guard will be ready in summer 2014 and can be purchased from Predictive Design Technologies, LLC.