Ind D 270
Future of Contact Sports
Design is in everything. In this paper I will be talking about the future of contact sports. Designing of new equipment along with rule changes are happening all over contact sports. The dangers of contact sports are in serious debate these days due to research showing the impact of hits to the head and body. These hits are causing life long damage that is irreversible. I want to explore the history of protection gear and how far along design has come to prevent injuries. I want to focus on four major sports that have the most reported injuries each year; football, hockey, basketball, and soccer.
Football is one of the most dangerous sports in the world due to repetition of contact. “When watching football, it’s easy to take for granted that the equipment utilized by the participants is the same as it has always been, standing ready to protect the players from the tough physical demands of the game.” (Duaghters) Football has changed from its original origins as a ruby like game in the late 1860s to the modern game we know today. The protective equipment is designed to be a shell like shield that designers have completely evolved since the beginning over a hundred years of the game. The first college game in history back in 1869 Princeton and Rutgers challenged each other with out wearing headgear know today as a helmet. With many injuries occurring the talk of adding protective helmets were introduced to prevent injury. A slow but steady change did bring a series of rule changes as well. At the head of the movement was Walter camp. Walter’s advanced ideas included snaps, field size, and only a certain number of people on the field at a time ultimately separated football from ruby creating a need for protective gear. Helmets still did not surface until 1939 when it was a mandatory piece of equipment in college ball. The first helmet was hardly protective. It was made of leather straps or moleskin fused together to protect players who had a concern for their own safety. These earflap helmets did not even cover the whole head. Padding was the next step in creating a safer sport. The padding was not added to prevent injury but for comfort. “Other than the actual leather product stiffening and becoming more impact resistant over time, the next major advancement in helmet technology came in the 1940s when a Chicago sporting goods company by the name of Riddell patented the plastic football helmet.” (Duaghters) Even the advancement of plastic helmets it had its drawbacks. With advancement of technology for plastics and synthetic materials this sped up progress for the helmet. It slowly shaped to modern gear that we know of today. The problem here is that as long as guys have been putting helmets on and playing football, they’ve been getting socked in the mouth or the face hence the invention of the facemask. Before the facemask players would use weird looking nose guards to protect their faces. Along with the improvents in protective gear safety penalties were added such as the grabbing of the facemask that would result in yard gain to the victim. “The “invention” of shoulder pads in football is credited to one L.P. Smock, a Princeton student who is said to have designed the pads in 1877, eight years after his school faced Rutgers in the first ever college football game.” (Duaghters) These shoulder pads were made of leather and wool sewn into player’s jerseys as opposed to being word as a separate piece of equipment. Originally designed as padding for just the shoulders these pads moved down to protect the ribs and upper torso. This piece of equipment evolved along with concerns of injuries in other parts of the body. The pants worn have seen the least amount of change of all the equipment. Adding hip and knee padding is the only change in the pants. The materials and design layout of the pads have changed with the times for more comfort and better safety. Basic equipment worn by most football players includes helmet, shoulder pads, gloves, shoes, and thigh and kneepads, a mouth guard, and a jockstrap or compression shorts with or without a protective cup. Neck rolls, elbow pads, hip pads, tailbone pads, rib pads, and other equipment may be worn in addition to the aforementioned basics. Football protective equipment is made of synthetic materials: foam rubbers, elastics, and durable, shock-resistant, molded plastic. As you can see football has came a long way from little to no protective gear to a massive list of protective equipment. Still there are problems that impact football especially head injuries. The NFL has created a few new rules designed to limit hits to the head. The league has expanded its rules to prevent “defenseless” players from taking shots above their shoulders. The future of football relies on the advancement of the protective gear. Leading the way is the Vicis Zero1 helmet. The scientists, neurosurgeons and engineers who designed the helmet make it clear that it won’t prevent concussions. No helmet will, but this helmet is the looking like the future in protective gear.
Many other sports like football are struggling in keeping their players safe from injury. Coming in at number six on the top ten most dangerous sports is hockey. Ice hockey is a fast paced, high contact sport, which has been around since the late 19th century. “The first ever-recorded indoor ice hockey game took place on March 3, 1875 at the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal, but it was much different than modern day hockey in that each team had nine players and it was played with a wooden puck.” (Trillium TLC) Looking at today’s game that has only allows six players on each team instead of nine cleans the ice from congestion. These players include five skaters and one goalie for each team. “Aside from skates and a stick; the remainder of the equipment that we see today was non-existent. The clothing that they wore was more to protect them from the cold than anything else.” (Trillium TLC) Today’s players have great equipment that has been designed to offer maximum protection, while having flexible and lightweight giving them great comfort while playing. With time protective gear became a more serious part of the game. In the early 1900’s, a few players incorporated back and shoulder protection to their uniform. Though it still was held together with scrap pieces of felt and stitched into their undershirts players felt safe from taking hits, but still were getting injured. Along with back and shoulder pads players started to wear kneecaps made of leather and felt. Many also upgraded their gloves to include padding in them made out of felt or animal hair. I think it is very interesting that players were at the forefront of creating gear. Since their were no industrial designers or designers really in sports. I guess this makes sense because if they got hurt they could no longer play and could not get paid. “By the 1920’s, players began attaching their makeshift shin pads and kneepads together to offer a higher degree of protection to their legs.” (Trillium TLC) As the player’s skill level advanced having this gear was essential. Since the puck would be hit harder and skaters learned to skate better getting hit with a skate or puck could break bones. With the addition of shin pads it eliminated these silly injuries. Within the next decade it was rare to see players wearing head protection in the form of helmets. I think this was because it was had to see the puck and they didn’t have the materials to make a comfortable helmet. In 1933 Ace Bailey, a star player for the Toronto Maples Leafs suffered a career ending head injury after colliding with another player. This sparked a movement across the hockey world implementing the importance of wearing a helmet. Even after this collision it was still rare to see a player wearing a helmet regularly until around 1970. Another injury created a revolution in hockey gloves. After a star player broke his thumb his trainer came up with an idea to allow him to play. This idea was to reinforce the gloves with the fiber thumb that allowed a common protection for players. A common way to get hurt was facing on the cold hard ice. Elbows and forearms took a lot of damage from the ice. Players began wearing leather elbow pads on the outside of their jerseys. While sewing felt pads on their undershirts to protect their forearms form the ice and collusions with other players. The player that took the most damage was the goalie. Taking pucks to the face and the body Clint Benedict had enough after receiving a broken nose from a powerful shot on goal. However, this mask was only worn until his nose was healed. He did not like wearing it because it obstructed his vision, which is a major problem for a goalie whose job is locating a small puck. “The first goaltender to consistently wear facial protection was by Montreal Canadians goalie Jacques Plante on November 1st 1959. While playing a game against the New York Rangers, Plante was struck in the face by a powerful shot, which wounded his cheek and nose. He was quickly stitched up and returned to the ice wearing his self designed fiberglass mask, which he had only previously worn during practice. His coach at the time was reluctant to let him wear the mask and spectators ridiculed him questioning his toughness.” (Trillium TLC) After winning eighteen straight this facemask spread across the league. Some goaltenders opted out of wearing the mask until 1973 when a rule was passed to prevent injuries to goalies making them wear this mask as protective gear. Real advancement happened after World War Two. A boom in the advancement of fiberglass and plastic industry protective gear moved away from leather. Shoulder and elbow pads began being made from plastics and fiberglass. “In 1950, NHL president Clarence Campbell stated that although this new protection is good for the wearer of it, the true danger rests on the opponent who gets struck by this heavy armor. As a result, he emphasized the necessity to re-examine protective gear and get rid of anything that may be of danger to other players.” (Trillium TLC) It was enforced that players wearing elbow and shoulder pads needed to have a softer outer covering to soften impact between players. Penalties were given to players instinctually injuring other players with thrown elbows. To make things fair the NHL announced a new protocol for equipment. It had to be approved by the NHL rues committee to ensure that the equipment was safe for both the wearer and opposing players. The NHL began to enforce more guidelines to prevent injury to players. “In 1959, CCM began developing a new type of leg protection after Montreal Canadians star Bernie Geoffrion severed his tendon in the back of his leg from colliding with another players skate. By 1961, CCM released their new lightweight leg protection made from the same material as shrapnel vests in the Korean War. This new shin guard wrapped around the back of the leg giving players full protection from blades and was one of the first pieces of protective gear approved by the NHL rules committee. To further protect players from tendon injuries caused by skates, CCM also designed a new skate in 1961 by placing a hard plastic cover on the heel of the skate.” (Trillium TLC) Protective equipment manufactures started to implement new materials to the game for lighter and more comfortable play. Cooperall was design in 1980 this material was 80 percent lighter than the existing pants. It was made from nylon and covered from above the player’s knees all the way up to their lower ribs. It did not last long since the material could not with stand the abuse. It tended to rip on a regular occasion. It also had players sliding uncontrollably when falling to the ice. Manufactures continued to make small changes to improve play. Shorter cuffs on gloves gave up protection but allowed players more control of their stick. Giving and taking a solution was found in stretching down elbow pads to cover the wrist since their were no longer cuffs for protection. “One of the latest developments in protective hockey gear was displayed at the all-star game in 2007. Reebok and the NHL introduced a new uniform system called the Rbk EDGE Uniform System. It was designed with four different fabrics that is intended to give the players maximum protection while also maintaining a lightweight and keeping them drier than ever before.” (Trillium TLC) I think that the hockey world in pretty content with the protective gear that is available. However, companies are always work with players to make gear more custom to each player. Especially since the NHL can afford to invest to make players more comfortable and protected. I don’t see any changes coming in the next few years. I do think that in the future it will no longer be played on ice. I could see it being moved to a softer surface that gets rid of smaller injuries. This surface would implement the same characteristics of ice besides how hard it is. Another things that come into play are how players take care of their body’s. All the sports I am talking about have programs and resources to maintain a health body in competitive sports. It is said that pro athletes recover faster than amateurs partly because they get superior medical care. Players spend a tremendous amount of money to take care of their bodies.
It’s a mystery. When we twist our ankle playing basketball, it can take weeks to heal, but when a pro athlete does it, they often hardly miss a beat. “Did they have a miraculous recovery? Not necessarily. While professional athletes are in terrific shape, which helps when they get injured, they also have advantages rarely available to the weekend warrior: an instant medical response and a physical therapy regimen that kicks in quickly, that operates practically around the clock and that continues even after the athlete is back in the game.” (Hambleton) These professionals use electric stimulation, compression sleeves, anti-gravity treadmills and individually tailored exercises to speed the repair of the body. These techniques and devices can mean the difference between an early return or weeks on the bench. “Basketball equipment has evolved in many ways since Dr. James Naismith invented the sport in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Originally designed as an indoor game of skill for YMCA athletes, basketball is now one of the top four most popular sports in North America. The design and production of basketball equipment has expanded to keep up with the sport’s evolution.” (Porter) One of the more common protective equipment for basketball is the mouth guard. Oftentimes, though, it’s hard to imagine a primitive version of the game. Helmets, shoulder pads, and yes, even the mouth guard didn’t always exist. Through the years, the mouth guard has played a huge role in sports protection and now has become as much of a staple in protection as any other piece of equipment. While it’s somewhat unclear the exact origin of the mouth guard, historic references have gone back to about the turn of the 20th century. Boxing appeared to be the first sport in which mouthpieces were used, as boxers originally fashioned primitive mouth guards out of cotton, tape, sponge and even small pieces of wood. Woolf Krause, a London dentist, developed a mouth guard or ‘gum shield’ in 1890 to protect boxers from debilitating lip lacerations. Dick Perry, a UCLA basketball player, was the first known athlete to use an acrylic mouth guard. During the 1950s the American Dental Association (ADA) started researching mouth guards and promoted the mouth guard benefits to the public. By 1960 the ADA recommended the use of latex mouth guards in all contact sports and by 1962 all high school football players in the U.S. were required to wear the mouth guards. The NCAA followed suit in 1973 and made mouth guards mandatory. Since the promotion of mouth guards the number of dental injuries have dramatically decreased. Presently, mouth guards are standard or required in many sports. The ADA recommends mouth guards to be used in 29 sports: acrobatics, basketball, bicycling, boxing, equestrian, football, gymnastics, handball, ice hockey, inline skating, lacrosse, martial arts, racquetball, rugby, shot putting, skateboarding, skiing, skydiving, soccer, softball, squash, surfing, volleyball, water polo, weightlifting and wrestling. It’s hard to refute the importance of a mouth guard. Whether it’s a high impact sport or a low impact sport, someone’s mouth, teeth and head are always vulnerable. With the evolution of the games came the evolution of protection. Mouth guards are beginning to be the norm, instead of the exception. Because of that, mouth guards have become better protectors, easier to use and of course, they look good too. Soon, it’s going to be hard to imagine sports without mouth guards. In the sport of basketball the five most common injuries include the following: Head or face, wrist or hand, knee, hip or thigh, and foot or ankle injuries. Bumping heads with another player or taking an elbow to the face is the common in the NBA. Because of how little protection basketball players wear and how physical the sport is, players of the sport are injured very often. When these injuries land on the face or on areas that won’t make it much harder to play, basketball players, usually professionals will try to continue to play while ensuring that the injuries that they have received don’t worsen. This brings us to face masks. Players usually wear facemasks once other players have injured them to the face to prevent further injury or re-injury. Another common injury is to the wrist or hand. There hasn’t been a invention of gloves to the NBA, but tape and wrist bands help prevent injuries. There is an opportunity to create such gloves in the sport of basketball. Severe injuries like ACL tears are not as common in basketball as they are in high-contact sports, but knee injuries, mostly minor sprains and strains, still have the third highest incidence of occurring in basketball. Knee braces and pads are the solution to this problem. Especially if a player has already had an injury to the knee it is common to see them wearing some type of protection to that area. Tape is the most common way. However, companies such as Nike have created sleeves and kneepads to help prevent injuries. This is why stretching and using the proper protection is necessary before playing. Pivoting, running, jumping, and rebounding all place extra strain on the legs and hips, leaving players open to a variety of injuries. Hip strains and bruises can occur from contact on the court or over-extending of muscles and ligaments. Padded compression shorts are a newly designed product that allows players to feel comfortable while playing, not worrying about all bumps from other players. This leads to the most common injury in all of sports and especially basketball foot and ankle injuries. Whether it’s rolling an ankle, getting awkwardly hit in a scramble for the ball, or accidentally getting stepped on, basketball naturally leaves athletes more open to these types of injuries. That’s why you can see many players with their ankles taped or with ankle braces.
The last sport I’ll be talking about is soccer the most popular sport in the world. In soccer they have a few products that help prevent injuries. Sliding shorts, mouth guards, gloves, protective headgear, shin guards, and cleats help players stay healthy. Soccer involves a lot of footwork and running up and down the field. Soccer games can get pretty intense, and players are vulnerable to being jabbed in the ankles and shins by other players. “Though FIFA safety rules don’t specify that players wear a certain type of cleat. Soccer shoes are specially designed for a soccer player’s performance and safety on the field. Unlike other kinds of athletic field shoes, soccer cleats lack studs at the toe of the shoe. Soccer shoe designs also consider that athletes do a lot of passing with the sides, backs, and tops of feet, and that players need to ‘feel’ the ball with their feet more than other field athletes.” (Epic Sports) Technology in contact sports has greatly improved in the past decades and especially over he past few years. With more technology being wireless and data collected over the year’s designers have more ideas than ever to create better protective gear. Tracking systems like MiCoach and Under Armour39 also assist an athletes’ health maintenance through a number of analyses that can be made in regards to fatigue, overtraining and other important health related information with this information then being compared to their unique physical and medical conditions. With the goal to monitor contact sports athletes’ health, another piece of technology has entered our courts; fields and rinks these technologies have made it possible to track the intensity of head impacts experienced by athletes. The use of technology in contact sports has grown a lot within performance enhancement, injury prevention, injury recovery and athletes’ health maintenance. The use of advanced high speed and high definition cameras, along with the development of biomechanical software has allowed teams to have an in depth view of athletes’ movements. This detailed view may assist coaches to better understand a hockey athlete’s kinetic link (chain of muscular, joints and body events) during a slap-shot, or a rugby player’s penalty kick, or a soccer player’s corner kick; this information is then used to improve speed, accuracy, but also to analyze possible indicators, like the imbalance of movement which may cause injury. With the fast growing advances of the technological field in sports comes challenges, like finding trained professionals who know how to implement sport sciences with professional sport organizations in a seamless way, or to train members of the training/coaching staff to be able to take full advantage of the benefits that technology is bringing to sports. An example is of what benefits advanced sleep and rest data can bring to a team. Even though there are some obstacles, the future of sport and technology is bright – there is potential to see a great deal of improvement in team performance enhancement and health maintenance coming from sport and performance technologies, especially with programs that make the adequate use of, and correct adaptation of the technology that is currently available. Finally, there are plenty of reasons to be excited for and to be looking forward to the future of sport performance technologies, as new conforming wireless technologies are being created and improved, and more efforts are being made in preparing knowledgeable professionals that will make the best use of them. (Oppermann)