Advancing the science of safety

Dr. Dean Sicking is dedicated to protecting life and limb from the highway to the playing field. Projects ongoing in his lab cover everything from better football helmet testing to new roadside barriers.


 Impact test 1

It's time for a new approach to brain injuries in football

An approach based on the realities of the game. Football is all about physics: forces, vectors, closing speeds. The current methods of testing football helmets were designed in the 1960s, when the goal of a football helmet was to prevent skull fractures. We now know that concussions are the greatest long-term risk to players. But today's helmet testing is insufficient to answer this all-important question: Which helmet is the safest?

To protect players, you need to understand the type of impacts they experience on the field. What kind of helmet best protects a lineman during interior play? How about a wide receiver getting hit by a safety as he makes a play downfield?

Dr. Sicking is determined to answer these problems. Our unique approach starts with automated video analysis of actual football games to determine the exact conditions that lead to severe injuries during play. That data is then fed into crash test simulations in our lab at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham. We're using the same state-of-the-art crash test dummies used in modern auto testing to establish a new paradigm in football helmet testing. That information will allow us to test all helmets on the market to see which ones offer the best protection. And it will guide development of better helmet technologies.

How are we going to achieve those goals?


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Safety engineering for the real world

Our football research is a direct descendant of an approach that has saved thousands of lives — on highways and racetracks across America.

In 2001, following the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt during the Daytona 500, NASCAR reached out to highway safety expert Dean Sicking. installed the revolutionary SAFER barrier at all of its racetracks. Dr. Sicking developed SAFER after extensive video analysis, computer modeling, and real-world testing to re-create the conditions surrounding the Earnhardt crash. In 2002, NASCAR installed Dr. Sicking's SAFER barriers at all of its tracks. There has not been a fatality in the sport since.

See how motorsports got SAFER


 road safety

You see our work every day

Dr. Sicking's innovations are on display on practically every mile of American interstate. His designs for roadside barriers are credited with saving thousands of lives.

Learn more about the devices protecting you on the highway. 


Bringing SAFER to hockey

Dr. Sicking's designs are now helping to change the safety equation in another sport: hockey. A call from a youth hockey coach in Chicago led Dr. Sicking to adapt his SAFER concept to the walls of hockey rinks, known as the "boards." Player impacts with the boards lead to concussions and even paralysis. A hit up against a regular wall can produce deceleration of more than 100 Gs, well above the level associated with concussions. In testing, Dr. Sicking's SAFER boards reduced deceleration to 50 Gs. 


You can help build a safer world

Your support can help us purchase critical equipment and attract young engineers to pursue careers in safety.

Join us today.