The head of a crash-test dummy wore a football helmet as it hung upside-down on a laboratory drop tower. James Eckner, M.D., stood on a ladder next to it holding its tether. He counted to five and let go.
The bust smacked into another just like it three feet below – with about the force of two linemen colliding at the start of a play.
How hard was the hit? Where was it centered? And what reactions did it cause in the defensive dummy head? Sensors sent answers to a laptop across the room.
It’ll take weeks for the researchers to fully analyze the data from several days of drops – part of an effort in Michigan Engineering’s Biomechanics Research Lab to help improve understanding of how the head and brain react to impacts. It’s a ripe field, as the sports and science communities are becoming aware of the devastating long-term effects that decades’ worth of concussions and head hits can have on players.