But today’s Star Tribune reports that the University of Minnesota will be one of ten schools in the country using a new sensor system in players’ helmets to detect potential concussion-causing hits. Those sensors send information after every play back to the sideline where a coach or trainer can monitor how the players are doing.
More specifically, each helmet is equipped with six sensors around the crown of the helmet. Those sensors feel the G-forces of hits that the player sustains to the head on any given play. If the hit is hard enough to cause a concussion, an alert is sent to a transmitter on the back of the helmet, which then sends a message to the sideline computer.
A total of 70 Gopher players will be outfitted with the helmets this season and the university is paying about $80,000 for the technology. Riddell is the only helmet maker that makes helmets with the technology, so returning players have the option of continuing with their old, non-equipped helmets, if they prefer.
Beyond monitoring individual hits during the game, the computer program used to run the system will also keep track of the number of hard head hits players receive over the course of the season. It’s more data that coaches and trainers can use to prevent over-exposure of players to hard hits.
Medical people are quick to point out that the new technology won’t prevent concussions. But it will make sideline personnel more aware of potential problems to check out with players. It’s estimated that 85 percent of concussions suffered by football players are not detected.
Former Gopher quarterback Bryan Cupito suffered two concussions during his career that medical personnel discovered on the spot. But he probably had another one in a game against Penn State last year, that they didn’t catch, and he stayed in the game to play more football.
Concussions and football are a growing issue. The National Football League recently held a summit to find ways to diminish the cumulative impact they have of players. Some players who have suffered too many concussions have had to retire early.
While this new technology will be great for Gopher players, it is still only chipping away at the top of the ice burg of sports-related head injuries. There are 300,000 sports concussions suffered each year and about 83 percent of those occur with high school athletes.