Revolutionary technologies for head protection are set to fuel growth in the sports gear market
Although head protection represents a significant segment of the market for sports gear, sports helmets have remained essentially the same for decades as large manufacturers of helmets and the helmet testing industry have been resistant to change.
However, a number of companies have been focusing on the development of technologies which can provide a greater level of protection to sports participants and mitigate the effects of traumatic head injuries, notably concussion.
One such company is MIPS AB, which developed the Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS). This technology provides an increased level of protection against oblique impacts to the head, which constitute a major cause of concussion.
In a helmet with MIPS technology, the shell and the liner are separated by a low friction layer which allows the shell to rotate relative to the liner when the helmet is subjected to an oblique impact. In this way, the shell is able to absorb much of the rotational acceleration during an impact.
MIPS has gained significant traction in the market since its development in 2009, and it has been incorporated into helmets for horse-riding, cycling and extreme sports by a number of companies, including Back on Track, POC and Scott Sports.
In a similar vein, Phillips Helmet developed the Phillips Head Protection System (PHPS). This has a lubricated flexible membrane over the outside of the helmet and can reduce the rotational force on the brain by over 60% in the critical milliseconds following an impact to the head. As a result, the system is capable of significantly reducing head trauma and the risk of traumatic brain injury.
The technology has proved to be popular, and has been adopted by Lazer, a Belgium-based motorcycle helmet manufacturer, in its SuperSkin helmets.
Furthermore, a number of sports companies appear to have recognised the potential for growth in the market for head protective gear and are developing intelligent products for use in a variety of sports.
Reebok has worked with MC10, a USA-based technology company, to develop its CheckLight sports cap which is able to detect when an athlete has received a serious blow to the head.
Meanwhile, Adidas has worked with Ayrtek to develop its range of AdiPower cricket helmets. The helmets incorporate a patented Air Cushion Impact System (ACIS) liner, which allows the wearer to achieve a bespoke fit by inflating the liner using a pump, or deflating it using an air release valve.
In the future, technologies for head protective gear will provide opportunities for companies to capitalise on a growing sector of the market for sports gear as demand for such products increases.
Issue No 46 of Performance Apparel Markets includes the following reports: "Fast track: protecting sports participants from head injuries"; "Product developments and innovations"; "Waterproof breathable fabrics: demand for comfort is driving innovation"; "Profile of Jack Wolfskin: a premium outdoor apparel brand"; and "Business update".
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