When U.S. Army officials began looking for scientists to develop a safer helmet lining for soldiers, they turned to the University of Southern Mississippi. The School of Polymers and High Performance Materials has developed a one-of-a kind lining exclusive to USM called "pneumatics." School Director Dr. Jeff Wiggins compares it to airbag technology that's designed to better absorb impact and cushion the head to prevent injuries. He says their product is used in many helmets worn by NFL and college football players.
"Most pro teams are using the helmets. It's not exclusive, but I think last year we had over 300 NFL players wearing our technology," said Wiggins.
Wiggins says traditionally linings are made of foam like that found in a car seat cushion. When it gets cold it's stiff. When it's hot it becomes soft and doesn't absorb impact well. He says pneumatic technology is very effective at reducing injuries despite the temperature. That's why the U.S. Army signed a two-year, 4.9 million dollar contract with USM. Dr. Trenton Gould, who is with the School of Kinesiology, is working on the project and says soldiers endure a high rate of concussions.
"We are dealing with what is called blunt impact, blunt trauma I think people are intuitively very familiar with. You're going to get headaches, nausea, and potentially some lethargy, some memory loss," said Gould.
Gould says concussions can lead to post traumatic stress disorder, vision problems and ringing in the ears. He says a portion of the money will fund a test lab and salaries for several staff to help with the research project. Gould hopes to have a sample helmet lining ready in eight months.