From 1987 to 2000, protective plastic sporting gear helped contribute to a 40 percent decline in the unintentional injury-related death rate among children in the United States.
Innovations in plastics have helped to make essential gear safer. Items, like plastic helmets, are now lighter and stronger and help keep athletes safer.
In contact sports, such as football and hockey, players are required to wear head gear at all times during play.
A 2011 study by Nationwide Children's Hospital found football players age 6 to 17 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for about 8,600 concussions each year. Many more concussions may go unreported.
At the professional level, the NFL’s helmet sponsor Riddell frequently makes changes to the padding and design of its equipment, while Xenith LLC's line of helmets use newer technology with air-filled pads rather than foam. Other companies are testing more dramatic changes to help prevent injuries.
Thermopraxis and Schutt Sports, which is the largest producer of football helmets are developing a product called the Thermocrown.
The product is a bladder that can fit inside a player’s helmet. In the event of a hard hit to the head, a trainer would attach a source of cooling gas to the bladder to lower the player's head temperature and stave off damage.
An independent industrial engineer, Michael Princip, is working on the Bulwark helmet, which features multiple plates on the helmet’s exterior, instead of the single-piece design common in today's use. The Bulwark panel system intends to dissipate the force of big hits and reduce the amount of pressure received by any blow to the helmet.
Helmets started as soft, leather caps in the early 20th century, then gave way to plastic shells with foam padding and facemasks in the 1950s. As technology continues to grow, the safety of players on the field will also.