Safety comes first

Year 8 student Oscar Wildschut from St Pius X High School, Adamstown has designed protective headgear for athletes to minimise the risk of brain damage.

Oscar is part of the Virtual Academy program run as part of the Catholic Schools Office Gifted Education K-12 Strategy, which commits to providing gifted students with learning opportunities to realise their potential.

This is Oscar’s second year in the Academy and his project topic of choice was protective equipment for athletes who play contact sports.

“Being part of the Academy really pushes me to think outside the box, and more deeply about issues that concern and interest me,” said Oscar.

His innovative idea, “GELFOAM Headgear”, was inspired from his passion and commitment to playing Rugby and understanding the implications of being hurt or getting a concussion.

“Currently, concussions and head associated injuries are a large reason for people not to play contact sports, such as Rugby. When a player gets a concussion, they are not allowed to participate in any contact sport for 21 days.

“Earlier this year, while playing a rugby league competition for St Pius X, I got concussed by hitting my head on the ground. Although it was extremely painful and could not remember what happened, I was very lucky that I was wearing headgear and the impact was not too severe.

“My design would ideally alleviate this issue by using a combination of silicone gel and polyurethane foam in the headgear to minimise the risk of a concussion as well as ensuring more people feel safe when playing a contact sport,” he said.

“Currently most headgears only use a layer of foam, and through the injection of the layer of gel in my design, it gives additional protection to the brain.

“The gel used in the design will disburse the impact taken in through the headgear to minimise the force on the brain. Once the impact is taken on the outer layer, the foam will take the impact to lessen it, then for the gel to disburse it throughout the sides. This will therefore increase the protection on the brain and save it from harsh, violent force.

GELFOAM is an improvement from current headgears due to the additional layer of gel, to act as a cushion for the brain. The area of the brain that is absorbing the impact mostly is the Frontal lobe and the Occipital lobe. This design will reduce the risk of being susceptible to becoming concussed.

“I want people to have confidence to play sport without the fear of concussion or brain damage so I have designed this headgear for all people concerned about serious head knocks.

GELGOAM headgear is innovative and is a development that could be used in the future for players to use. It is what people would want in a design and will minimise the risk of becoming concussed while playing contact sport.

“I hope that if this was to become a reality, it would give young people the confidence to play contact sports,” said Oscar.

Oscar's Teacher and Virtual Academy Educator, Rebecca Heath said that he has shown great research skills when investigating the issues surrounding concussion and headgear and has really made the connection between the Virtual Academy question for the unit, can I shape the world in which I live?, and his personal interests, passions and values.

"Oscar showed he can think critically about what gives him agency as a young person and become involved in contemporary conversations regarding safety and sport. 

"Oscar’s presentation was sent to an expert professional in medical research who was able to provide him with some positive feedback and directed him to further research being undertaken around viscoelastic material based headgear," she continued. 

To find out more about Gifted Education in Catholic schools, click here

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Gabrielle Sutherland Image
Gabrielle Sutherland

Gabrielle Sutherland is a Marketing & Communications Officer for the Catholic Schools Office and a regular contributor to and Aurora.