For years now, after a player takes a hard hit to the head, a coach or trainer examines him to check the severity of the impact and his readiness to return to the field. But a visual inspection only reveals so much.
Now there is a wave of new technology, embedded in football helmets, aims to measure the force of on-field collisions and send alerts when a player’s health may be in danger.
Having theses concussion helmet sensors is a great way to help keep players healthy. Head injuries in football have become a hot-button issue in recent years, from youth leagues to the NFL. Thousands of former pro players who have suffered brain disorders, like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease have sued the NFL, claiming the league knew about the long-term health risks associated with head trauma.
Seeing an opportunity, manufacturers are producing a growing list of products marketed as “head impact sensors,” small devices that fit inside the helmet and trigger a warning when a player sustains an especially hard blow. These products have names like Shockbox Battle Sports’ Impact Indicator and Reebok’s CheckLight.
Now Riddell is looking to incorporate such sensors into the helmet itself. The company’s newest helmet, the SpeedFlex, is the first designed from the ground up to include a polymer-film lining that develops a charge when impact pressure is applied.
The helmet’s crown contains a flexible panel that compresses upon impact, reducing the force of collisions. Meanwhile, the helmet can be fitted with sensors — Riddell’s InSite system, launched last year — that send wireless alerts to handheld devices on the sidelines, telling coaches when a player has sustained an unusually forceful hit, or series of hits, to the head.
A Riddell spokeswoman said the SpeedFlex helmet will hit the market this summer in time for the 2014 football season.
KEEP IN MIND:
Riddell and other manufacturers are quick to point out that their products don’t diagnose concussions or any other injury. They say their devices do give coaches and trainers additional criteria that can help in determining whether a player should come out of a game. The helmet is intended to help identify players that are striking their head too often. If coaches see this happen, they can warn the player of a possible concussion. This is important because at the end it can protect them and make the game safer.