Mastering the Mask
by Allyssa Haygood-Taylor
American football helmets, and protective gear overall, have rapidly evolved since the era of leather helmets. Technological advancements and data mining have led to the design and development of safer helmets, helping to prevent injuries within this intensely physical sport. The Football Facemask Performance Creative Inquiry project, led by Andrea Fisher, graduate student, and Dr. Gregory Batt, both from the Department of Food, Nutrition and Packaging Sciences, are working to further the advancements in safety by studying how head collisions impact football facemasks.
The project partners with D.W. Daniel High School’s football program to collect data on their used facemasks. Specifically, the Creative Inquiry team focuses on offensive and defensive linemen facemasks. Data is collected through analyzing game film and recording the number of hits to the facemasks throughout the season. “At the end of the season, we study the facemasks in person by comparing stiffness between the control facemasks and used facemasks see the deviation of stiffness between the two,” Andrea Longacre, senior packaging science major, said.
The results of this research will inform more than just the Daniel High School football team. The Creative Inquiry project’s findings are expected to aid three specific groups: parents; equipment managers; and facemask designers, as they design, produce and distribute safe facemasks. “Creative Inquiry enables us to explore facemask testing on a pilot scale, while collecting data that would suggest how much one season affects a facemask, using the tests that we have developed,” Batt said. The interdisciplinary team of packaging science and bioengineering majors hopes that the collection of data from other football teams will continue, increasing the facemask sample size. Ultimately, this Creative Inquiry team hopes to make playing football safer, one piece of equipment at a time.
Barbara J. Speziale