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Head Protection Novel Materials - Seminar, Friday 6th May, 1pm, Room 204

Wednesday, 25 May, 2016

Dr Peter Theobald will present research on new materials for head protection in sports.

Head protection materials have remained largely unchanged since the 1970’s, with expanded polystyrene still forming the predominant impact energy absorbing component in the majority of helmets.   Our research explores the development of novel material structures that provide scope to out-perform existing materials, particularly in the critical shear-compression testing, thereby potentially providing more effective head protection solutions.

Sport presents a range of environments that risk head injury.  Single, high energy impacts can occur in sports including motor racing, motor cycling and equestrian.  Collision-based sports such as rugby, American football and ice hockey are more likely to present an environment of multiple, lower-energy ‘sub-concussive’ impacts.  The severity of risk presented by this latter category has only recently been fully appreciated, with US-based neuropathologists demonstrating a link to permanent, long-term brain damage.  This correlation has formed the basis of the recent, successful $700M compensation claim by former American football players citing their participation in the sport as the cause of their subsequent brain damage.  This risk of long-term brain injury from multiple, relatively low-energy impacts has seen concussion-based protocols recently introduced in a range of sports, including rugby union and soccer, whilst the events surrounding American football was recently serialised in the film ‘Concussion’.  This presentation describes collaborative work, led by Cardiff University and Charles Owen, to develop new material structures that are more effective at absorbing impact energy, whilst ultimately representing a viable commercial solution.  This work is being completed in-part with the National Football League (i.e. the ‘NFL’), with funding secured via their Health Challenge programme. 

Our work focuses on utilising additive manufacturing (or ‘3D printing’) as an enabling technology for the design of structures tailored for effective energy dissipation, for a predicted impact environment.  This approach has led to us identifying a series of material structures that demonstrate encouraging performance versus contemporary materials – typically expanded polystyrene – for absorbing compressive impact loads. Significantly, our early numerical (FEA) and experimental data also highlights the potential for our approach to out-perform EPS when considering shear-compression loading. This is the most likely impact interaction, and that which the head-brain complex is most susceptible to injury. Hence, our early work demonstrates the potential to, ultimately, positively influence head health.

About the Presenter:

Peter Theobald is a Biomechanical Engineer. He graduated in Medical Engineering from the University of Bradford (1st Class (Hons); 2003), at the time being one of very few higher education institutions to offer such a programme. He moved to Cardiff School of Engineering to read his PhD in soft tissue biomechanics (2006), before progressing to become a member of academic staff. He now teaches on a range of undergraduate and postgraduate modules. Dr Theobald's research focuses on identifying solutions to measure the risk of, and improve prevention against, mortality, morbidity and injury. He specialises in achieving this through the novel and innovative adoption of additive manufacturing technologies to biomechanics. His research is of both a fundamental and applied nature, meaning he works with a range of academic, clinical and industrial collaborators within the UK and overseas. Dr Theobald has been Head of Discipline (Mechanical, Medical and Manufacturing Engineering) since 2013. The discipline was recently ranked 7th in the UK, by the highly respected Guardian newspaper league tables.

Further information: (opens in a new window)neal.murphy@ucd.ie 

UCD School of Mechanical & Materials Engineering

UCD Engineering & Materials Science Centre, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
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