A team from California is in the early stages of developing a skull cap designed to fit inside regular hats or helmets to provide protection to people at risk of acquiring a head injury while playing sport.

Impact Reduction Apparel (IRA) has designed a liner for helmets and hats which should help to protect against head injuries commonly associated with skiing, snowboarding, baseball and skateboarding. It is aiming to do so by reducing the impact on the injury prone areas of a person’s head.

The skull cap is designed to fit the vast majority of hats and helmets and claims to offer the highest-grade impact reduction solutions for common impact areas. The material includes ‘smart molecule’ technology which changes from a soft and pliable material to a firm protective shield upon impact.

Independent lab testing using the thinnest IRA skull cap showed a 65% reduction in peak impact force, the force with which two objects collide. A pitching machine firing baseballs at a pumpkin left the pumpkin showing visible cracks and damage without protection, but no damage when it was protected by the skull cap.

Peter Mulhern, national head of the serious injury team at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “Acquired brain injuries are not an infrequent problem in sport and the effects of an acquired head or brain injury can be devastating so anything that improves protection is welcome.

“While this product wouldn’t be a replacement for a helmet it appears it could increase protection for those who sensibly take at least that precaution.

“A discreet liner that is comfortable to wear and provides added protection to a sportsperson without affecting their performance, appearance or comfort would be a real advance and we hope to see the development of this product gain the support it needs to enable it to become available to everyone.”