Virtual Helmets Developed to Improve Player Safety

Head injury is a growing concern within contact sports, including American football. Computational tools such as finite element (FE) models provide an avenue for researchers to study, and potentially optimize safety tools, such as helmets.  

The Wake Forest University Center for Injury Biomechanics was one of 4 schools selected globally to participate in a NFL sponsored consortium project to develop a set of virtual football helmets. The team at Wake Forest developed a finite element model of one popular football helmet, the Schutt Air XP Pro model. 

The work was completed through a process of reverse engineering the helmet from image-based geometry development, to extensive material characterization, and model validation to ensure the simulated impacts match real-world experiments. The helmet model was fit onto various head forms and simulated through a series of nearly 70 matched simulation-to-experimental tests, which included impacts of similar severity as those that occur on the field. These virtual helmet models give researchers an additional tool to study the relationship between various in-game modes of impact and the associated risk of head injury. 

PI: Scott Gayzik, Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering,
co-PI: Joel Stitzel, Professor, Biomedical Engineering,

For more information on the project, view the Play Smart Play Safe website.  

Front Drop Test


Facemask Linear Impact