December 1, 2005 Engineers have developed more protective padding for football players. Unlike traditional padding, the new putty-like material can be molded into protective gear to fit a player's body and better guard against injury. The squashy material redistributes the force from a hit evenly through the material to lessen the impact on a player's body.
SHIPPENSBURG, Pa.--The hard-hitting sport of football often sends players to the sidelines with injuries. Now, a new, soft material offers better protection for football players, keeping them in the game and off the injured list.
John Sharbaugh, a member of Shippensburg University's football team in Pa., loves the game. "I wouldn't want to be in the world without the sport of football," he says. But loving this rough-and-tumble sport has its downfall; the injured list.
"If you worked so hard to get to that point and then one little injury knocks you out of the season it's a horrible feeling," Sharbaugh says.
Now, players have a new line of defense against injury. Developed by engineers, it's called re-absorb and is a tough, protective material with a soft side. Jeff Hartung, from Impact Innovative Products, Inc. in Manor, Pa., says, "[The football players] can play at 100-percent ability out there on the field and know they are being protected at the same time."
Unlike traditional padding, the putty-like material can be molded into protective gear to fit a player's body and better guard against injury. Rocky Rees, head football coach at Shippensburg University, says, "The kids want to play. They don't want to come off the field. So if we can protect them where they never get injured, we're better off."
On impact, this squishy material hardens and absorbs energy from a hit while dispersing the force evenly through the material. The lightweight, soft padding gives full range of motion, won't slow a player down, shields bruises that beg for padding, and prevents re-injury.
"It allows us to get them back onto the field a little bit sooner than if we didn't have them," says Wesley Mallicone, director of sports medicine at Shippensburg University. Getting back in the game sooner may put a player's mind at ease and might put more points on the scoreboard.
Today, 22 NFL teams currently use the new padding, along with a few high school and college teams using it.
BACKGROUND: A new polymer padding can instantly change from acting like a liquid to acting like a solid. SMARTPAD is made of a semi-liquid plastic, and is designed for protection in contact sports, motor sports and industrial applications. The padding will conform to any body, offering full support and cushioning when not in motion. But it will change its characteristics and act like a solid whenever energy is applied, in order to dissipate shock or vibration.
NEW PAD BENEFITS: Blunt impact trauma -- such as concussion -- is common in many high-impact sports, such as football or hockey, because large amounts of energy are transferred into the body during, say, a football tackle. Padding helps absorb and dissipate this energy when the impact hits. SMARTPAD dissipates more of this extra energy than standard foams, and is 50 percent lighter than traditional gels used in sports padding. The polymers will never break down, dry out, freeze, or melt, and they are non-toxic. The padding offers athletes free range of motion, and can be custom engineering for specific sports or other applications.
ABOUT SMART MATERIALS: Smart materials are a class of materials that can sense and respond to changes in the environment, either through the application of electricity or magnetism, or to changes in temperature.
Editor's Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.