Local teen's football helmet invention could save lives

Ryan Beck's invention finished 3rd in science fair

SAN DIEGO - A San Diego teenager may have invented a football helmet that could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of athletes.

Ryan Beck's hydrophobic, anti-fatigue, foam-coated football helmet just placed third in the California State Science Fair.

The 13-year-old told 10News he got the idea while watching a football game and wanted to find a way to make helmets safer.

"Getting a concussion is like running with just your bare skull into a wall going 20 miles per hour," said Beck, who just graduated from the 8th grade at Pershing Middle School.

He said constant collisions to the head suffered by football players can result in chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is what San Diego Chargers great Junior Seau had and dozens of former pro football players suffer from.

Beck investigated different foams to put on the outside of the helmet, and he compared collisions using a pendulum and a pressure sensor.  

The winner was a hydrophobic, anti-fatigue foam, which is the same foam people stand on to relieve back pain. He covered the foam with the same neoprene used in wetsuits, and the helmet cut the impact of a helmet-to-helmet collision from 33 Gs to about 15 -- a 55 percent reduction.

He said it could save lives on the pro level, but Beck wants kids to start wearing it, too.

"They need to be protected just as much as the older players," he said.

It could put a dent in the 300,000 sports-related brain injuries every year.

Beck is considering participating in a national science fair.  

In the meantime, he said he is looking for help patenting his invention.

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