Force Indicator for Brain Injury Safety in the NFL

There is a brain injury crisis in the NFL.


Players have been diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that causes cognitive impairment, aggression, suicide, dementia, and early death.

99% of studied brains from deceased NFL players' were found to have CTE.

In a study published in 2017, neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee examined the donated brains of 202 former football players. CTE was identified in 3 out of 14 high school players (21%), 48 out of 53 college players (91%), and 110 out of 111 NFL players (99%). 

111 Former NFL

Players' Brains

What causes CTE? Concussions and head injuries.

Since football is an extremely high contact sport, players often sustain over 1000 head impacts in a single season. In 2017, these impacts caused 281 concussions. This is the highest number of concussions in a year since the league began sharing this data.

Number of diagnosed concussions in the NFL each year

For years, the NFL downplayed the risk of the sport and the health of its players. So who is looking out for them?

53% of NFL players do not think coaches and team doctors have their best interest in mind when it comes to health and safety.

"A lot of times, you get in your mind: does coach really want to see me healthy? Or do they really

want to see me play?” - Jurrell Casey, Tennessee Titans

"I don’t believe the NFL has our best interest in mind… I’ve observed that not all 32 teams work in the same manner." - Steve Smith, Baltimore Ravens

  Protocol is hardly regulated from team

  to team.

  Health and safety are not prioritized

  over the outcome of the game.

  Players are seen wrongfully cleared to

  return to games even after detrimental

  head impacts.

“I think it’s their job to make you playable. There’s a lot of pressure on them to keep guys on the field, so they’re going to do what they can to get you on the field.” - Don Carey, Detroit Lions

47% of diagnosed concussions were only discovered due to players reporting their own symptoms

This means that players had to rely solely on themselves to acknowledge symptoms to pull out of the game and get checked.

How can we help increase brain injury safety in the NFL?

Impact acknowledged by player

Takes self out of game

Proper diagnosis of concussion

Low chance of developing brain disease

NFL Player

Suffers serious concussion/head impact

Impact ignored

by player and management

Continues to play,

risk of further

hits & impacts

High chance of developing brain disease

Pulled out of game for inspection

Health is not prioritized/protocol

not standardized

Wrongfully cleared to go back in game 

Ideation & Development Sketches

Understanding existing safety gear, the physics behind concussions, and developing FIBIS.



FIBIS is a helmet add-on that aids in brain injury safety in the NFL. By detecting impact force and showing its magnitude through clear, visual indicators, FIBIS can predict when an impact might lead to a brain injury. FIBIS can eliminate the shaky reliance of self- reporting and the risk of unsafe clearances in the NFL.

How the FIBIS add-on works

1. Application

FIBIS can be customized to each individual helmet. The force plates cover the entire surface and are applied like stickers. The back plate, which holds the electronics, are attached using nuts & bolts.   

2. Detection

When worn on the field, FIBIS detects the magnitude of force of anything that comes into contact with the helmet.

3. Indication

If the magnitude of force reaches an amount considered dangerous, LEDs will light up. This will create a visual cue that the player sustained a damageable amount of force.

Detecting Force

The add on plates use velostat sheets, a conductive, piezoresistive material, to detect force. As force is applied, the electrical resistance of the sheet changes.

When programmed, the sheet can output its change in resistance as numerical data.

Providing Indication

FIBIS uses colored LEDs to show the scale and magnitude of detrimental impacts. Once FIBIS detects an impact above a safe threshold, corresponding LEDs will light up. By using clear visual indication, the impact of the hit cannot be hidden, ignored, or downplayed. 

Concussive Hit

Subconcussive Hit

Substantial Hit

100+ G

90 G

80 G

70 G

60 G

50 G

Dangerous G-force magnitudes and their correlations to brain injury can be set and standardized throughout the NFL. This can help improve the lack of standardization in both protocol and concussion diagnosis.

* The amounts currently shown on the scale are just used as an example.

Programming + Tech 

The plates are programmed to correlate an input of force to an output of lights on a scale. The higher the force, higher the lights on the scale. 

* The force-to-light correspondence programmed here used lower resistance levels for prototyping purposes


An NFL helmet replica was used to prototype FIBIS. Tech and hardware were incorporated to test and prove the validity of the concept.

The Components

Force Plate Add-Ons

Easily attached and removed with adhesive backing, the plates cover the entire surface of the helmet. The plates measure force and output the data to the indicator.

Back Plate

Fits securely onto the back using screws and pre-existing holes. Holds all electronic components.   

      - programmable board   

      - rechargeable battery   

      - LED lights     

      - conductive wires


LED lights show the magnitude of force applied by using a visual scale of colored lights.


Force plates are customized to be laid down and still allow all hardware to be attached. 

Awards + Recognition

+ Exhibited at Pratt Show - NYCxDESIGN 2018

© 2018 Anna Lu

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