A few weeks ago, I linked to an article on the problems with concussions in American football, pointing out that it wasn’t just the acute concussions you had to worry about, but the gradual damage from head blows that added up silently over the years. My advice was, if you are a parent, to carefully consider whether you should allow your children to play football, at least until the various leagues figured out a way to ameliorate the danger.
Science News has an article up looking at a possible solution: magnets in the helmets.
Adding magnets to football helmets could reduce the risk of concussions, new research suggests. When two players collide, the magnets in their helmets would repel each other, reducing the force of the collision.
“All helmet design companies and manufacturers have the same approach, which is to try to disperse the impact energy after the impact’s already occurred,” neuroscientist Raymond Colello said November 15 at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.
The magnets, he says, would put a brake on the impact before it happens.
The idea hasn’t been tested yet in helmets with real players, said Judy Cameron, a neuroscientist at the University of Pittsburgh. “But a lot of thought has gone into it, and the data that was shown about the ability of the magnets to actually repel each other looked extremely promising.”
My initial thought when reading this was, what effect would the magnets have on player’s heads? Turns out, it’s not expected to be an issue:
Though the magnets do attract metallic objects, the National Football League prohibits athletes from wearing jewelry during games. Another safety concern is whether the magnets are dangerous to have near human heads. Colello says that a 30 minute- to one-hour MRI procedure produces magnetic fields 10 to 30 times as strong as those in helmet magnets.
Although I could see there being concerns about long term exposure to the magnets. The question is whether any long term effects would be any worse than, or even amount to, the long term effects of routine head blows. It may be a simple matter of having to make a trade-off.
Of course, it still has to be tested. And I’d still carefully consider whether I wanted my kids playing in this game.