P. David Halstead
Dave Halstead is the Technical Director of Southern Impact Research Center (SIRC) responsible for the technical and scientific actions of the A2LA accredited test lab, as well as overseeing the technical aspects of all testing, consulting and other services provided by SIRC staff.
Dave is uniquely qualified as an expert in the field of head injury and helmets. His background is non-traditional in many ways and does not include a traditional college degree.
In addition to his duties at SIRC, Dave is the Laboratory Director of the University of Tennessee Sports Biomechanics Impact Research Lab and Principal Scientist with the University's Engineering Institute for Injury and Trauma Prevention in the College of Engineering. In these roles Dave works with students and other faculty in many human injury studies. The lab's work has included cadaver and living subject studies in areas of motorcycle injury, finger and ankle injury, spine injury, and head/brain and face injury. Research has been diversified from airbag deployment impacts, injuries from beach volleyball facial impacts, and a number of other areas all-resulting in increased understanding of human injury tolerance and thresholds.
Dave became involved with the local fire and rescue squads at a young age, becoming a trained and certified combat firefighter at age 18 and was one of the first in the area trained in the use of Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) used to enter smoky and burning structures. He was also qualified as an EMT advanced at the same time.
Following graduation from high school, Dave worked for a short time with the local phone company as a telephone lineman and then joined the US Air Force. Dave trained as a machinist and graduated with honors from a joint military training program. He was able to build nearly any part needed to keep the aircraft flying. Later, Dave trained in the areas of crash recovery, emergency medic, hazmat control and other specialized duties. Dave served as a Vietnam era Airman and was exposed to combat operations in the Middle East. His unit was awarded an outstanding unit citation and Dave received decorations of his own. During his time in the Air Force, Dave began his higher education and attended classes taught by professors from the University of Maryland, UCLA, and others through the Community College of the Air Force. He also married his high school sweetheart and they moved overseas.
While serving on a NATO base in Turkey, Dave was introduced to a young boy who, though he could ride his bike, could not walk, because of a malfunctioning artificial leg. Dave took on the task of repairing/rebuilding the artificial leg and was later called to the wing commander's office, whose son was the subject of the after-hours project. Dave was thanked by his commander for the work on his son's leg and was encouraged to take part in an Air Force program that would switch him to the National Guard so he could pursue his education full time. The Air Wing also recognized Dave for his work on the development of an improved LOX valve for the FB - 111 aircraft, winning an Air Force outstanding design award. Shortly after making the switch to the Guard, school and upstate New York Dave's wife, expecting their first child, was diagnosed with a rare, terminal brain condition. It was at this time when Dave first became interested in how the brain works, is injured and might be protected. Dave's formal education was put on hold.
Dave next worked for a local clothing manufacturer and assisted in the development of new manufacturing technologies and machinery. In 1981 his wife of 6 years passed away leaving him with a young son. Dave agreed to relocate his company's entire operations to Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and was made Operations Manager at the age of 26. Dave relocated the entire facility, trained a new staff of over 100, and the facility became operational under time and budget. Coincidently, the new factory was located on Halstead Boulevard. Dave returned home to Upstate New York and took over as Chief Industrial and Plant Engineer for CB Sports. Dave designed machinery and equipment that allowed the use of revolutionary new materials in skiwear, including a protective sweater for slalom skiers, the first personal protective equipment Dave worked on. Dave once again volunteered for the local rescue squad and was trained as a paramedic.
The development of this new machinery drew attention to Dave and he was hired to head up a firefighter's equipment manufacturer's protective clothing division in New Jersey. Dave became involved with SCBA and helmet projects in the New Jersey Company. After the set up of a successful protective clothing line, Dave was asked by Bike Athletic to move to Knoxville, Tennessee and head up the plant engineering operation and work in the helmet and protective equipment design area for football and baseball equipment. He still had no degree.
Dave began at Bike Athletic and immediately immersed himself in the study of sports helmetry and head injury. He took post-graduate courses at the University of Tennessee ("UT") and the University of Louisville. Dave used his own medical foundation and worked closely with the head trainers and team physicians gaining a reputation, as a genuinely concerned scientist who believed reduction in injury was possible. Dave worked closely with Dr. Hodgson at Wayne State University and became involved with several committees involved with headgear and/or brain injury, including the ASTM, the CSA, the ISO, SEI, HECC, NOCSAE and others.
Subsequently, Dave received the ASTM Award of Merit in 2001, the highest award the international committee can convey and was named a Fellow to the Society. Dave also received a citation by ASTM Committee F08 on Sports Equipment and Facilities for distinguished service and leadership, and in the development of safety standards for head and body protection. It was also noted that "standards developed under his guidance have led to minimizing injuries and saving lives."
Dave became Director of R & D at Athletic Helmet in 1986 and led the design of a new football helmet, which remains a mainstay at all levels, including the NFL, as of this writing. In 1992, Dave moved back to Upstate New York but stayed busy with head protection and injury prevention. He worked in Canada on the development of new hockey helmets and materials. Dave returned to Knoxville in 1994 where he developed his own patented bicycle helmet and became partners with Mr. Bob Drew, his former boss at Athletic Helmet, and started PDH Corporation. While his education continued he still had no formal degree.
Bob and Dave sold the helmet patents and rights to an investor and concentrated solely on testing, standards development, design work and risk management at a new company they named Southern Impact Research Center (SIRC). At about the same time, Dr. Hogdson retired and Dave was asked to carry on part of his work with National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment ("NOCSAE"). The work of SIRC came to the attention of Dr. John Snider of UT who invited Dave to bring his skills and laboratory to the campus of UT as part of the Human Factors program within the department of Industrial Engineering at UT's College of Engineering. Soon to be Dr. Tyler Kress was one of the first students to become involved in and benefit from the new test lab and program. While Dave still had no formal degree he served on a master's thesis committee and a doctorial dissertation committee. He was invited to mentor a student at the University of Delaware and served on the committee that awarded a Ph.D. to the new Dr. Higgins. Dave is a research scientist and lectures as his schedule permits. Graduate and undergraduate students alike strive to participate in the Sports Biomechanics Impact Lab at UT. The program received frequent accolades from both local and international perspective. While still not in possession of a traditional degree Dave received both a Bachelors and Masters in Engineering Technologies from Almeda College and University based on his varied course work and proven accomplishments, including the introduction of new technologies, and a total of more than 15 patents.
Dave led a team in 2000 in the development of yet another football helmet used in the collegiate and NFL levels right beside his first new helmet from nearly 20 years ago. SIRC's development of new test methods and test equipment including the world's most bio-fidelic and anthropometrically correct human head surrogate is a clear indication of the level of technology and understanding that Dave and his team have reached in this field. Dave's understanding of head injury is on par with the best minds in the world on this topic; he freely exchanges ideas and arguments that he hopes will lead to even better protection for future generations.
Dave is active as an instructor and lecturer in the areas of head and neck injury, human biomechanics and injury with the University of Tennessee, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and others.