Last winter, the ski-related death of actress Natasha Richardson due to a seemingly minor head injury, sent shock waves throughout the country. So much so, that states such as California are nearing legislation to mandate helmet use on the slopes.
While tragic events may result in expanding helmet use among skiers, at least one group of researchers are aiming to increase the overall safety of the helmets themselves. Students from Northeastern University are working to develop a new helmet that not only protects the user’s head, but also monitors for potential injury.
Northeastern students Cyril Blank, Matthew Jamula, Diego Nevado, Ross Parker, Tadas Vaisvila and their professor, Sinan Muftu, developed the helmet, called the Head Impact Detection and Alert System. The team also worked with several emergency medical technicians and X-ray specialists. The group took a traditional ski/snowboard helmet, and lined it with sensors that measure for acceleration. A corresponding LCD screen is used to display colors whenever the helmet experiences an impact. If the impact is mild, the screen will display a green color. If the impact is severe, the screen turns red.
The helmet is still in the prototype phase, but once it’s ready for production, the researchers say the device could be worn by skiers and snowboarders on the mountain. The helmet could potential revolutionize how head injuries are treated on the mountain by alerting responders of the seriousness of the injury.
According to the Northeastern team’s research, if seemingly mild head injuries are left untreated, they can actually become more serious than a concussion. A device like this helmet could ensure that folks talk the time to receive proper medical attention.