Virginia Commonwealth University is not exactly known as a big football school.
A former president once commented that a football team would not be fielded by VCU "on my watch." The campus bookstore, at least at one time, has sold T-shirts with the slogan: "VCU Football, Still Undefeated." The school now has a club team.
Even so, a researcher from VCU described Saturday a small contribution for improving the safety of the sport as hordes of brain scientists descended upon the nation's capital for their annual tailgating event.
Raymond J. Colello, a VCU professor of anatomy and neurobiology, delivered a short presentation at Society for Neuroscience 2014 in which he proposed fitting permanent magnets made from rare earth metals into football helmets to cut down on concussions. Each helmet for both teams would be equipped with magnets positioned so that like poles—north-to-north or south-to-south—would contact each other during a head collision of two players, resulting in repulsive forces that would diminish the impact. In a test, Colello and colleagues found that two closely spaced neodymium magnets, simulating helmet-to-helmet contact, could generate 100 to 150 pounds of repulsive force and each helmet could have several magnets. Researchers estimated that the risk of concussions could be reduced by as much as 80 percent.
Maybe, maybe not.
The thing is, linemen on opposing football teams don't really train to avoid each other. So what happens if one of the players switches in new magnets so the helmet-to-helmet face off becomes north vs. south.
Opposites attract and boom, the force be with you, but not the repulsive one.
"Before you go out onto the field, could we test the polarity of your helmet, sir?"
Image Source: VCU Commonwealth University