Select Page

International team collaborating on a better helmet for contact sports

International team collaborating on a better helmet for contact sports


Imperial College London researchers visit partners at UBC Okanagan

A partnership between UBC Okanagan and  Imperial College London (UK) is focused on development of a new helmet that could one day reduce sports-related concussions.

Professors Peter Childs and Dan Plant, visiting from Imperial College, spent the week at UBC’s Okanagan campus, meeting with researchers and sharing ideas and designs that can change lives.

Plant is one of the developers of Armourgel—a light, flexible material that absorbs shock on impact and can reduce physical harm from falls or other kinds of contact. While at UBC, Plant met with Prof. Paul van Donkelaar, director of UBC’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences, and demonstrated several samples of Armourgel. The applications of this novel new material are far-reaching -- from protective bike gear, to clothing for elderly people prone to falls, to more effective helmets.

That’s where UBC Okanagan’s new Survive and Thrive Applied Research (STAR) facility comes in.

STAR ( is a hub for innovative research projects that focus on human performance and protection by bringing together expertise from across UBC, industry and other universities. In one of the first major collaborations through STAR, van Donkelaar is working with Armourgel and Kelowna’s Helios Global Technologies to develop a helmet liner that could lessen the impact of blows to the head, specifically in contact sports. His research examines the damage sustained by young athletes who have been concussed while playing sports, especially those who have had more than one concussion.

Part of this work examines how concussions can affect blood flow to the brain, how this impacts neurocognitive function, and how to determine when young athletes are physically ready to begin playing a contact sport again.

"Sport-related concussion is becoming a major concern for athletes, parents, coaches, and sport associations,” says van Donkelaar. “Finding ways to improve the safety of contact sports is one key approach to mitigating the risks of concussion. The development of Armourgel helmets could be a step in the right direction to making contact sports safer."

In van Donkelaar’s lab, Plant presented several variations of the Armourgel product, and explained how it can be manufactured in different thicknesses, and can be applied in many ways. The goal now is to work on a prototype helmet liner that may one day become standard safety equipment for those who play contact sports.

During their visit, Peter Childs, Professor of Engineering Design at Imperial College London, spoke about the benefits of a partnership between UBC and Imperial. The goal is to expand the relationship and provide new opportunities for students from both universities.

This spring, UBC Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Okanagan Campus Principal Deborah Buszard signed an agreement with Imperial College as part of UBC’s plan to foster deeper relationships that can lead to innovative research

“The visit by Imperial College London opens the door to exciting new opportunities for this campus and our partners in the community,” says Buszard. “It is wonderful to be hosting scholars of the calibre of Peter Childs and Dan Plant. I look forward to seeing the results of the joint projects already underway with UBC researchers, as well as other opportunities for collaboration discussed during this week’s visit.”

While in the Okanagan, the visitors from Imperial met with representatives from local businesses and industries, community leaders, and representatives from several faculties at UBC including the Faculty of Management, Applied Science, and the Faculty of Health and Social Development.

Above:  PhD student Colin Wallace tries on a dirt biking shirt equipped with Armourgel protective covering, while UBC’s Paul van Donkelaar and Imperial College’s Dan Plant look on. Van Donkelaar, director of UBC’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences, studies concussions and is interested in Armourgel’s unique properties for use in sports helmets.

Related Post

About The Author


Okanagan Life captures the essence of life in the Okanagan Valley with informative and entertaining features on issues that matter to people who live or vacation in this great region, plus stories on Okanagan destinations, personalities, wine, food, history, outdoor recreation and more. We're now in our 30th year of publishing. Subscribe

30,000 giveaway for small business okanagan

Current Issue

yearly-subscribeDigital Edition - Yearly Subscription

Each month, we're giving away 30 free annual subscriptions to celebrate our 30th year in publishing! With a digital subscription, you can enjoy Okanagan Life on your tablet.

Upcoming Events

7:30 pm Cheng² Duo @ Frank Venables Theatre
Cheng² Duo @ Frank Venables Theatre
Jan 19 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Cheng² Duo @ Frank Venables Theatre | Oliver | BC | Canada
Friday January 19, 2018 – 7:30 CHENG² DUO Presented by the South Okanagan Concert Society Committed to bringing classical music to 21st-century audiences through innovative programming and engaging presentations, Canadian classical pianist and cellist Silvie[...]
10:00 am The 2018 Scotties Tournament of ... @ South Okanagan Events Centre (SOEC)
The 2018 Scotties Tournament of ... @ South Okanagan Events Centre (SOEC)
Jan 27 @ 10:00 am – Feb 4 @ 1:00 pm
The 2018 Scotties Tournament of Hearts @ South Okanagan Events Centre (SOEC) | Penticton | BC | Canada
The country’s best women’s curling teams will not only be chasing a Canadian championship, they’ll also be playing under a new format at the 2018 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Penticton, B.C. The Canadian women’s[...]
7:30 pm The Paperboys @ Rotary Centre for the Arts
The Paperboys @ Rotary Centre for the Arts
Jan 27 @ 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm
The Paperboys @ Rotary Centre for the Arts | Kelowna | BC | Canada
Celebrating their 25th anniversary year, Vancouver Canadian musician Tom Landa, is looking back on the legacy of his much-loved folk rock band The Paperboys. For a quarter century, The Paperboys have been touring the world[...]
7:30 pm Misery: Theatre Series @ Vernon & District Performing Arts Centre
Misery: Theatre Series @ Vernon & District Performing Arts Centre
Jan 30 @ 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Misery: Theatre Series @ Vernon & District Performing Arts Centre | Vernon | BC | Canada
The Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre proudly presents Arts Club Theatre’s production of Misery on Tuesday, January 30 at 7:30pm. Misery is the third performance in the Society’s 2017/18 Theatre series. Written by William[...]


Error: Please enter a valid email address

Error: Invalid email

Error: Please enter your first name

Error: Please enter your last name

Error: Please enter a username

Error: Please enter a password

Error: Please confirm your password

Error: Password and password confirmation do not match