By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Jefferson engineering students have created a new football helmet to help protect young minds.

The new helmet was presented Tuesday, coincidentally, as new research was released about young football players and their increased risk for brain injuries.

The helmet is actually made of bendable material.

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“The idea popped into my head,” said senior Olivia Mermigos.

Mermigos was part of a team of engineering students who designed a new youth helmet.

“We envisioned almost, like, half-circle with foam inside,” she said. “We weren’t expecting to be able to produce a helmet like we did, so we’re super proud of that.”

A helmet prototype was presented to faculty and students. It is designed for Pee Wee Football.

New research says head injuries to young players increase the risk for emotional and cognitive problems that’s linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. The disease is associated with athletes and repetitive trauma where the brain is injured hitting against hard surfaces.

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“Progressive scarring occurs to the brain,” said Dr. Stanton Miller, the executive center of Jefferson’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention. “Ultimately, that scarring interferes with the entire circuitry of the brain.”

Miller presented the students with the helmet design challenge.

“They’ve done an incredible job,” he said.

The Jefferson helmet is designed to withstand impact and cushion the brain.

“We were thinking if this were to be soft, the helmet would be able to go in and prevent the head from moving, so the helmet would be what’s moving, not the actual head,” said senior Daniel Sunderland.

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The Jefferson team is hoping to get approval for their helmet from the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment so it can be tested with local players.

Stephanie Stahl