By Hugh Doyle
A team of Cardiff University researchers and their partners have been named finalists in an NFL Co-Sponsored competition after developing a material which is hoped could prevent concussion in sports.
The team has been named one of five finalists in the Head Health Challenge III, one of whose sponsors is the NFL. The competition’s aim is to find a solution for the prevention of concussion. By being named a finalist the team have won an initial funding prize of £165,000, with potential for a further £400,000 if they win first prize.
Led by Dr Peter Theobald, a Cardiff Bioscience lecturer, they have developed C3; a multi-layered material. It is hoped that this material could be used in headgear to prevent concussions by absorbing the energy from impact and thereby dampen the blows players suffer when being tackled. Theobald commented on the material’s potential use in sport saying to the BBC that, “it would be remiss of us to not consider whether our technology can provide greater player protection”.
High profile cases recently, such as the mishandling of George North’s concussions and lawsuits by former players who have suffered from long-term health issues relating to concussions they suffered in the careers in American Football. have raised the profile of the issue. With many calling for action to reduce the occurrence of the condition.
Speaking of the news to the BBC, Dr Theobald said while happy he cautioned the use of the material in headgear citing concerns over the impact may have, “We need to be aware of the consequence that an introduction of new protective equipment has [had in other sports] – that is that it can change behaviour to reflect this new level or perceived invincibility or certainly increased level of perceived protection.” World Rugby also released a statement about the news saying also to the BBC, “welcomes any commitment to research and development in the area of player welfare”.
However, while the potential use of C3 comes at a time when there is debate over the use of headgear in sports at all. High profile figures, such as Wales centre Jonathan Davies, have said that they believe that headgear will not prevent injuries saying that they are an inevitable result of the sport. In response to these concerns, Theobald said, “We need to make sure that we, as academics, contribute ideas in terms of technology but it’s down to the higher powers within the sport to appreciate whether this represents a good opportunity or not.”