Retrofitting the American Football Helmet with Energy Absorbing Metals

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

First Advisor

Pnina Ari-Gur, D.Sc.

Second Advisor

Jinseok Kim , Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Alessander Danna-dos-Santos, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Peter A. Gustafson, Ph.D.


American football, concussion, finite element analysis, hypermesh, nitinol, spring steel

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Abstract Only

Restricted to Campus until



This research addresses the pressing issue of reducing concussions in American Football, a topic of growing concern in recent years, particularly within the NFL. The primary objective of this study was to develop an innovative add-on component made from Superelastic Nitinol and Spring Steel, specifically designed to integrate into existing football helmet structures, to mitigate concussions.

The research involved a comprehensive analysis of the mechanisms leading to concussions, as well as an examination of existing concussion risk criteria. A novel risk measurement, termed the Updated Combined Metric (UCM), was crafted to focus on helmet impacts known to generate concussive effects. To conduct the research, a publicly available dynamic finite element model simulating American Football impacts was adapted for use in Altair® HyperMesh®. This model underwent extensive validation, including comparisons with real in-game concussion data and data from the original FEA model.

The research culminated in developing three alternative designs, each demonstrating a reduction in concussion risk of 12% or more while maintaining an additional helmet weight of less than 10%. This outcome highlights the efficacy of incorporating energy-absorbing metals in helmet design, suggesting that widespread adoption within the American football community could significantly enhance player safety and reduce the incidence of concussions.

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