When actress Natasha Richardson died of a head injury related to a skiing accident last year, she initially thought she was okay. The problem with brain injuries is that they’re not always immediately noticeable. While a head injury usually results in a headache immediately thereafter, and then might include some discomfort for a while, it might also have very serious consequences. Because of this, research is being done on helmets that could immediately inform someone as to the possible severity of a brain injury.

Sporting goods manufacturer Riddell already has a football helmet on the market that measures impact data. The helmet sends this information wirelessly to medical staff computers on the sidelines. These helmets sell for more than a thousand dollars each — not exactly practical for most of us.?However, researchers at Northeastern University are working on a helmet that they think even high school football teams could afford. Their helmet contains seven accelerometers — sensors that measure changes in velocity — that monitor the forces acting on the head of the wearer. For example, if a snow skier took a tumble, the helmet sensors would keep a record of the forces exerted on the head as a result of the body’s acceleration during the fall.

Additionally, this helmet could alert the wearer or medical personnel on the scene if the level of acceleration goes above a certain range by flashing an LED light or setting off some kind of alerting sound. If successfully developed, such an affordable helmet with these capabilities could mean that many serious brain injuries which might otherwise go initially unnoticed would now get treated.?In Natasha Richardson’s case, a regular helmet would probably have prevented the injury, but if it didn’t, a ski helmet designed by Northeastern University researchers would have alerted someone to the severity of her injuries.