Hedgehog spines could protect athletes from concussions

Taking inspiration from nature to achieve innovative solutions to human problems -a practice also known as biomimicry- has all manner of applications in medical science and engineering…

But did you know that it has a place in sports as well? 

Having discovered the incredible shock-absorbing abilities of hedgehog spines, grad students at the University of Akron are developing 3D printed helmet liners with quill-like polymer structures that could help to protect football players from dangerous concussions caused by high-impact head collisions; their design has already out-performed multiple conventional helmets in lab tests.

This is because although nature is full of sturdy materials and structures that are designed to absorb high-impact, head-on blows like the horns of dall sheep and the beaks of woodpeckers, the combination of each spine’s hollow structure and the way in which hedgehog quills are arranged collectively makes them ideal shock absorbers for side-on impact as well. The brains of human football players require protection from both head-on and side-on collisions, so the humble hedgehog was the perfect inspiration for this design.

You can see a photo of the helmet as well as additional information about the project here.

Article by Sarah Bessie.


  • nicola hocking February 23, 2023 at 14:20 Reply

    This is amazing and so interesting. I would imagine the hedgehog spines would also have many other uses in human life. The helmet that the University of Akron are developing would be perfect for patients who have had brain surgery and had a portion of the skull removed temporarily. They have to wear helmets to protect their brains post surgery (not immediately post operatively).

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