JAN 05, 2024 4:00 PM PST

Preventing TBIs with a special foam

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

A team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a new material that could be used to prevent or reduce the side effects of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). This new material, a special type of foam, is described in a recent article published in Experimental Mechanics.

Traumatic brain injuries, the most common and well-known including concussions, are a troublesome injury that can have a range of lasting effects. Regardless of the cause, a traumatic brain injury often involves a blow to the head delivered at a weird angle. Due to the nature of these blows, traumatic brain injuries can cause what’s called shear strain, which puts an enormous amount of strain on the brain that can cause a range of injury, including cell death that can manifest as problems with cognition, processing speed, and more.

These types of injuries are especially common among military personnel and those who play sports, such as American football, where 2022 saw an 18% increase in concussion injuries over the year prior. This risk of injury and subsequent health problems has led to a number of new protocols intended to protect players from severe injury. Despite these protocols, players of football and other physically-demanding sports are at risk of injury. Researchers at Wisconsin have developed a new material that could offer a more effective solution.

Researchers have designed a foam that, when applied to a helmet, could offer robust protection against sheer strain that causes traumatic brain injuries. The foam, a carbon nanotube foam which is made of cylinders roughly an atom thick, is roughly 30 times better at absorbing the strain brains experience when confronted with traumatic brain injury-inducing incident by helping expel the kinetic energy behind a traumatic brain injury incident, especially when compared to material currently in military helmets, for example. The material is also especially effective at regulating thermal energy, offering cooling benefits when needed due to the material’s thinness.

Sources: EurekAlert!; SpringerLink; ESPN; Experimental Mechanics

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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