If you've ever played football, you've worn a helmet. And, chances are that helmet came from a factory here.
"So, what I have in my hand here is basically how your sons and daughters, and basically everyone's football helmets start, right here."
At Schutt Sports, helmets are manufactured, painted, assembled and packaged. It's the leading football helmet manufacturer in the world.
Schutt's clients include youth leagues, more than 800 colleges and NFL teams, like the Green Bay Packers. Like many in the football world, Schutt's feels the impact of concussions.
"The issue that you're going to have ultimately is, you know, that they call the epidemiology of concussion. What actually is the cause of concussions?"
Schutt CEO Robert Erb says technology against concussions can only move at the pace of research. That's where Schutt's lab in Salem, IL, comes into play.
"Schutt uses a series of technologies to emulate real-life collisions. Like here, it's as if a helmet were to hit the ground. And over here, if two players were to collide at full speed. There's about four or five of these in the country that I know of."
Larry Maddux is the lead research and development director at Schutt. He says Schutt tests beyond industry standards. This linear "impacter" is not yet required, but could be soon because of its realistic results.
"Sometimes you're hit and you head is spun, or it goes this way. The software in this can not only tell you direct translational impact, but rotational type."
Helmets are struck or dropped at various speeds. The force is then calculated by computers. Watch this hit slowed down. Notice how far the neck and head rotate.
This doesn't even compare to some of the most violent hits. It's an impact hard to catch with the naked eye, but something Schutt says provides valuable information.
"What it tells us, not only whether we're meeting the industry standards, but we develop helmets by using it as a development tool."
And the tools have changed the way Schutt produces helmets. The protective padding inside has changed the most.
The helmet industry has long made the switch from cloth padding to foam and gels. But, Schutt is the only company to move even further. It's designed a new technology called "thermoplastics."
"It doesn't seem to be affected by temperature anywhere near where foam does. So you can appreciate, with foam, it's a hot day, a lot of practice, the foam gets mushy. Or cold, it becomes almost brick-like."
Helmets have also become bigger. Schutt says more space means more padding and better helmet protection. With these machines, Schutt Helmet specifications remain consistent.
"One of our marketing slogans is, 'It's what's on the inside that counts.' And, that's true for an athlete and it's true for our helmets too."
Schutt continues to evolve. It's constantly tweaking its shell.
On average, every six-to-eight months, a new product is released. But, is it enough to tackle concussions? CEO Erb says, not yet.
"We're so good at what we're doing here that, you can take an egg. We can design around that egg, and you could drop it out of a second story window and it would be protected and it would be fine. But, what we're talking about here is the yolk inside an egg and what the movement and things are going to be."
Erb says there may never be a concussion-proof helmet, but there are ways to limit the changes of concussions. One thing he emphasizes is a proper-fitting helmet.