Professors Richard Kent and Jeff Crandall, biomechanical engineers at the Center for Applied Biomechanics (CAB), have spent their careers testing the safety features in automobiles and making safety recommendations to the government and to car manufacturers. They are masters at designing and engineering repeatable tests for a range of safety components. Now they have taken the principles involved in making cars safer and applied them to the testing of the protective equipment used by football players. Their goal is to determine which pads, helmets and shoes work best to protect players from injury while also allowing players to perform at top levels.

So it came naturally for them to set up a range of devices for testing football safety equipment, including a device for better understanding the mechanics of shoe/turf interaction.

Kent uses a machine nicknamed “The Beast” to simulate the forces an NFL player inflicts upon his cleats. The center’s work has had big influence on NFL footwear. Entire cleat patterns have been discontinued, and one brand even created a mechanism to stiffen the shoe when it reached a certain level of flexion identified through Kent’s research.

Crandall’s research is in conjunction with the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Engineering Subcommittee, one of several safety NFL committees created to research and prevent injuries. In addition to being chair of this safety committee, Crandall also will be a principal a principal guide through the execution of the Engineering Roadmap commissioned by the NFL. The Engineering Roadmap is a comprehensive and dedicated plan to try and bring knowledge, research and tools together to develop and improve head protection such as helmets.

What Kent and Crandall learn in their labs results in equipment recommendations for NFL safety committees and team equipment managers, and equipment manufacturers can incorporate their findings and recommendations into the design of new, safer equipment.