04/01/2015 02:48 EDT | Updated 06/01/2015 05:59 EDT

Better helmet for contact sports being developed by UBC

Researchers at the University of British Columbia's Kelowna campus are working to create a helmet that they hope will reduce sports-related concussions.

Research out of Virginia Tech's biomedical engineering and mechanics department recently found that most hockey helmets on the market aren't adequate to reduce the risk of head injuries. The finding was based on the testing of 32 helmets and rating them according to an experimental new measurement.

Paul van Donkelaar, a professor and director of the School of Health and Exercise Sciences at UBC Okanagan, has been partnering with Imperial College London since last summer to develop a new helmet that would absorb shock on impact better than existing helmets on the market.

"The combination of both the quality of the helmet — the thickness of the padding, the hardness of the outer shell  — and the speed which hockey players move on the ice — it's going to be faster than even the fastest football players," he told Daybreak South's Chris Walker.

"So that increase in the force that can be produced because of that probably makes those helmets that much less safe."

Van Donkelaar says the helmet he's working on involves using a shock-absorbing material called Armourgel that is developed by Imperial College London.

"The idea is that it's able to mitigate some of the force that occurs at the impact and spread it out over the extent of the material," he said.

"So the concept of this helmet would be to put that liner material inside the helmet and thereby reduce the amount of force that gets into the brain."

Van Donkelaar says the project is still in the initial stage, where he is testing the force mitigating properties of Armourgel. He expects a prototype of the helmet will be ready in a year or two.

He adds that no helmet could be concussion-proof, but the idea is to reduce as much as possible the risk of getting a concussion.

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