UC Berkeley neuroscientist creates game-changing helmets

During Dr. Bob Knight's four decades of doing research on the brain, he said he's seen many cases where brain injuries have drastically changed people's lives.

The neurolscientist and professor at UC Berkeley wanted to invent a better helmet that can protect everyone, from professional athletes to young children. So he started a company called BrainGuard.

At his lab in Point Richmond, he and his team on Monday showed KTVU the new helmet design they've created to protect against serious brain injuries suffered by athletes and just about everybody who rides a bicylce or uses a scooter.

The new helmet has two layers.  The inner layer is made with this yellow special energy absorbent foam.

"The inside shell doesn't move.  The outside shell takes the force. The outside struts absorbs the energy and it just snaps back in place," said Knight.

He said the best helmets including  the current ones used by the NFL can absorb energy from a direct head collision and prevent the full force of a hit from reaching the brain. But it doesn't account for hits that snap and rotate the head.

"If you're hit from the side or you're hit from the back, you can see that the helmet is moving and the principal advance is this movement," said Knight.  

He and his team said they have conducted tests that have proven the design works. 

Additionally, they say there is no added weight or bulk compared to helmets currently on the market. 

Knight says he started developing this new helmet eight years ago after several students at UC Berkeley where he teaches, suffered life-changing injuries resulting from bicycle accidents. 

"The one-time injury , falling off the bike can be devastating to your life," said Knight.  

He and his team have developed prototypes helmets  for specific sports such as hockey, football , baseball, and one for everyday use that includes bicycling and riding a scooter.

He said the World Health Organization predicts that traumatic brain injury will be the leading cause of death and disability this year, and that is not accounting for all the concussions suffered by athletes who don't see the damage until years later. 

"Whatever you can do to have better head protection,  it's a good thing for society," said Knight.

He said the next step is to find a partner to produce these helmets in large numbers.

Knight said his  goal is to put these helmets on as many people as possible who need them, to prevent serious brain injuries and to save lives.