Injury-reducing products in the sports and recreation market are becoming lighter, thinner, less cumbersome and more customized.
Specialty Fabrics Review | May 2012
By Jan M. Brenny
Changes in the world of impact protection are fueled by all segments of the marketplace, from material producers and technology developers to end-product manufacturers and consumers. Sadly, sports and recreation injuries factor prominently into the scenario. Faster-higher-harder-stronger seems to be the mantra for participants at all levels, and that can push players beyond their limits-which can cause problems.
The television news programs are full of concerns about injuries to players from grade school level to professional sports teams. Justin Morneau, first baseman for the Minnesota Twins, was hit in the head while sliding into second base at Toronto on July 7, 2010, and missed most of the rest of that season while recovering. The symptoms resurfaced in 2011. He hit .227 with four home runs and 30 RBIs in 69 games, and needed four operations-on his neck, wrist, foot and knee.
Changes in fabric technologies and product design are accelerating to meet the needs of sports and recreation enthusiasts of all ages. Effectiveness and wearability are key, but oddly enough, style is also high on the list for consumers.
How does it look?
For competitive athletes to buy and wear injury protection, even spot protection, the gear has to be comfortable and can't hinder play.
For many years, soccer players have used their heads to drive the ball, but only recently have officials recognized the sport's concussion potential.
"There's better acceptance today of the need to be proactive than to treat head injuries after the fact," says Dr. C. J. Abraham, inventor of the ForceField FF Headband. Still, players won't wear helmets, he says. To help prevent soccer-related head injuries, Abraham incorporated an impact-absorbing polymer with memory into a cotton/spandex headband. "We wanted it to look like a sweatband," he says. An internal airflow system works with the outer material to wick perspiration.
The ForceField FF Headband was tested and approved by every soccer organization in the U.S., Abraham says. It also received the CE II mark in Europe to be designated officially as "protective headgear," and won The Textile Institute's 2011 New Materials Award, recognizing "outstanding advances in technical textiles and their applications." These industry accreditations and approvals can help foster credibility for an impact protection product and encourage athletes to use it.
The headband's use is expanding into other sports and markets, something Abraham didn't originally foresee. It's being worn by fall-prone adults in nursing homes, hikers, children on playgrounds and kids learning to walk. "Coaches are reporting that-for the first time-their players have no down time due to head injuries," Abraham says.