Friday, January 24, 2014

Helmet safety and trash talking on a football field

Over at Kunstler's blog, I've been leaving comments about the Super Bowl in response to Kunstler describing football as "mock warfare with mock warriors."  I linked to Hipcrime Vocab on the Super Bowl and Sex sells the Super Bowl in space.  Yes, year old content, but people read them anyway.

That reminded me that I have more items from this week's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (California Drought Emergency) to produce another installment in the series that includes Research from BCS Championship universities and Science from the fans in the stands.

First, here's the University of Florida: With playoffs underway, UF researchers offer a safer football helmet.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Bone-crushing tackles may make football fans avert their eyes in horror, but Ghatu Subhash studies collisions, impacts and crashes, both on the field and off.

The University of Florida professor needs to do so in order to perfect his design for a safer helmet, which could address the increasing concerns about concussions and other head injuries in sports from Pop Warner to the National Football League when testing is complete.

Subhash and his collaborators have designed a helmet that protects against traumatic brain injury by accounting for the two kinds of force athletes encounter during a football game. Traumatic brain injuries occur 1.7 million times a year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 20 percent of those injuries are sports-related, including concussions that can cause long-term damage.
Next, a topic that works for any competitive event, including football, from David Wagner of KPBS: San Diego Researcher Explains Why We Trash-Talk Opponents
When I was in high school, my friends were obsessed with this video game called Counter-Strike. Their arena of battle was a local Internet cafe, Cyber World. Stationed at the rows of networked PCs, they'd spend countless hours shooting each other to bits, always gunning for a fatal head shot.

I was terrible at Counter-Strike. But I kept following my friends back to Cyber World just to witness the game's alarming effect on these people I thought I knew so well. Under the influence of Counter-Strike, my (mostly) well-mannered friends transformed into unbelievably vicious trash-talkers, hurling at each other the most creatively brutal verbal abuse I'd ever heard outside a Quentin Tarantino movie. So many ways to repurpose one four-letter word!

I guess I kept tagging along because I wanted to learn why my friends enjoyed this so much. Never very competitive myself, I wondered why they got such a kick out of deliberately getting under each other's skin.

There's a fascinating paper in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that might have given me my answer finally. Researchers led by UC San Diego behavioral economist Uri Gneezy have shown that competitors tend to deliberately anger their opponents when it will give them an advantage. Maybe my friends didn't like making each other angry as much as they just liked winning.
That deserves a cartoon, just to tie it in closer to the topic.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Sorry, garbled butt-kissing with a hidden link doesn't cut it here. Deleted.