The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) Department of Mechanical Engineering is developing new testing methodologies using crash test dummies to improve helmet testing and ultimately reduce concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). In that regard, they are putting sensors and recorders inside crash test dummy heads to get biofidelic impact data.Miniature DTSSLICE NANO data recorders plus triaxial linear accelerators and angular rate sensors get embedded inside the dummy head. The system records each collision, calculates the velocities of the players involved, the locations of impact on each player’s helmet and more. The recorders come from Diversified Technical Systems (DTS) in California. “DTS systems are so small that they really are a game-changer in this important work of improving player safety,” says Steve Pruitt, President and Co-Founder of DTS. The miniature embedded recorders eliminate the trailing cables necessary for bulky recording gear that formerly sat outside the dummies. Initially the dummies were wired up to exterior data acquisition systems, but there were issues with tangled cables that restricted free-flight test dynamics. “Right now, there are no football helmet standards that specifically address concussions,” said Dean Sicking, Ph.D., professor in UAB’s Dept. of Mechanical Engineering. “The DTS data recorders and sensors collect the relevant data that we need from replicated real-world hits to ascertain what kind of forces the hits cause. Ultimately, we can gather enough data to see whether helmet A or helmet B performs better in protecting against concussions.”
UAB’s test facility recreates the collisions players experience on the field, based on analyzing hours and hours of game footage. An 80-ft railed track with a motorized sled recreates actual impacts using two crash dummies geared up in protective football equipment.