NFL Announces Expert Advisors to Guide Engineering Roadmap and Improve Equipment

New Engineering Board Held First Meeting Thursday in Santa Clara, Calif.

October 7, 2016 – The National Football League convened experts from academia, industry, government and the NFL Players Association at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. on Thursday to discuss key areas of focus for the NFL’s Engineering Roadmap, a plan to incentivize helmet companies, manufacturers, small businesses, entrepreneurs, universities and others to develop and commercialize new and improved helmets and protective equipment over the next three to five years.

The first meeting of the new Board of Directors of Football Research, Inc. follows the NFL’s launch of Play Smart. Play Safe.—an initiative Commissioner Roger Goodell announced in September to drive progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of head injuries, enhance medical protocols and further improve the way the game is taught and played. As part of the initiative, the NFL pledged $60 million toward the Engineering Roadmap and committed to champion new developments in engineering, biomechanics, advanced sensors and material science that mitigate forces and better protect against injuries in contact sports and in the military.

“We are thrilled to have assembled some of the world’s foremost biomechanical engineers and material scientists to research and understand the injury biomechanics that are essential to improving protective equipment,” said Jeff Miller, NFL Executive Vice President of Health and Safety Initiatives. “We want to stimulate the marketplace to design and manufacture new equipment that is more protective than current models. Our plan builds on the successful model used in the NFL’s Head Health Challenge competitions with GE to crowdsource and support the best ideas from engineering experts around the world.”

Football Research, Inc. is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the research and development of novel methods to prevent, mitigate and treat traumatic head injury. The Board of Directors includes leading engineers and experts who will advise Football Research, Inc. on how best to achieve the goal of advancing biomechanics and create an environment where new and improved protective equipment will be developed.

The Board of Directors will focus on four key areas of the Engineering Roadmap:

  • How to create a program for head protection based in injury prevention techniques proven successful in automobile safety technology.
  • How to develop accurate impact sensors.
  • How to advance helmet technology to mitigate impact force.
  • How to create incentives for industry to use this research and develop new protective equipment, potentially even including position-specific helmets.

At Thursday’s meeting, board members discussed how they can apply their expertise to help achieve the program’s goals, including through advanced video reconstruction, crowdsourcing of ideas, educational symposiums and advanced technology evaluation.

The Board of Directors includes:

Geoffrey Ling, M.D., Ph.D., Col. (Ret.)
Dr. Ling is a leading authority on traumatic brain injury (TBI). For many years, he was the leading TBI subject matter expert for the Department of Defense. Dr. Ling is a retired U.S. Army colonel and was deployed as a neurointensive care physician to Afghanistan in 2003 and, to Baghdad, Iraq in 2005. He is presently a professor of neurology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and is an attending physician in Neuro Critical Care Unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital. And he was the founding Director of the Biological Technologies Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) where he served for almost 12 years.

Barclay Morrison III, Ph.D.
Dr. Morrison is Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University, director of the Neurotrauma and Repair Laboratory, and Vice Dean of Undergraduate Programs in the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. Dr. Morrison’s research focus is on the biomechanics of traumatic brain injury at the tissue level to better prevent brain injuries, as well as on the biochemical, genomic, and molecular pathways responsible for post-traumatic cell death in the search for novel therapies to better treat brain injuries.

Alton (Al) Romig, Jr., Ph.D.
Dr. Romig is the executive officer of the National Academy of Engineering. Under Congressional charter, the Academy provides advice to the federal government, when requested, on matters of engineering and technology. He was previously vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company Advanced Development Programs, better known as the Skunk Works®. He spent the majority of his career at Sandia National Laboratories, operated by the Lockheed Martin Corporation, having joined Sandia as a member of the technical staff in 1979 and moved through a succession of R&D management positions leading to his appointment as executive vice president in 2005. He served as deputy laboratories director and chief operating officer until 2010, when he transferred to the Skunk Works. Dr. Romig is a fellow of ASM International, TMS, IEEE, AIAA, and AAAS.

Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D.
Dr. Runge has decades of clinical, research, leadership and administrative experience. Until 2001 he practiced and taught in North Carolina’s busiest emergency department and trauma center, while performing research in injury prevention, trauma care, and emergency service delivery. Dr. Runge was also the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) first Chief Medical Officer, where he led the reorganization of biodefense operations into a new Office of Health Affairs. He then led the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, where he instituted programs that led to the first absolute declines in U.S. motor vehicle deaths in nearly a decade and the lowest highway fatality rate in history.

The board will work closely with Dr. Kristy Arbogast and Dr. Barry Myers, consultants to the NFL Players Association, who are co-leads on essential elements of the Engineering Roadmap. Jeffrey Crandall Ph.D., chair of the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee’s Engineering Subcommittee, will serve a leading role in managing the Engineering Roadmap. Dr. Crandall is the Nancy and Neal Wade Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Virginia.

In addition to the Football Research, Inc. Board of Directors, the NFL is establishing an independent Scientific Advisory Board comprised of leading doctors, scientists and clinicians to engage in a clear process to identify and support the most compelling proposals for scientific research into concussions, head injuries and their potential long-term effects. More than $40 million in funding has been allotted in the Play Smart. Play Safe. initiative for medical research over the next five years, primarily dedicated to neuroscience. This new Scientific Advisory Board will be tasked with identifying new targets for the next wave of research.

For more information about Play Smart. Play Safe., and to read the Commissioner’s letter to fans, please visit www.PlaySmartPlaySafe.com.

For more information on the NFL’s Engineering Roadmap, please visit https://www.playsmartplaysafe.com/focus-on-safety/advanced-technology/nfls-engineering-roadmap/.