It’s football season! Our favorite players have trained and practiced for months for the kickoff. However, no amount of training can protect them from being tackled and landing head-first on the ground. Each year, football players suffer concussions that cause lifelong consequences.
The good news is that new sports technology may help coaches keep their players safe. It can help players block and tackle more safely and bring protections and benefits to the game that we’ve never seen before.
Video cameras on the field and tracking devices embedded into players’ shoes, helmets, and other gear track their performance in real-time. This allows team managers to quickly assess situations that need to be improved.
Here are some of the technologies you may see on the football field this season:
Innovative Mouthguards: Some mouthguards now come with built-in sensors with gyroscopes and accelerometers. They track when a player’s head twists and turns. And they relay information to coaches about a player’s speed on the field.
When a player gets hit, the mouthguard registers how hard. If the hit exceeds a specified threshold, an alert is sent to a coach via Bluetooth. If necessary, they can pull the player from the field for a medical evaluation.
Smart Helmets: Research has revealed that traditional NFL helmets aren’t as helpful as once thought to protect players from concussions. To that end, the SpeedFlex helmet technology offers a customizable smart helmet. It comes equipped with sensors and magnets that detect the collision and how an impact is dispersed and absorbed into the helmet.
Video Monitors: A team’s medical staff can now access sideline video monitors to
review any play. They can detect the mechanism of an injury to better understand what happened and coordinate the proper care for a player. These videos can’t be accessed by anyone other than the medical team.
Electronic Tablets: The NFL requires their clubs to use electronic tablets with specially designed applications to diagnose concussions. The X2 app includes a step-by-step checklist to assess suspected of head injury and comes with concussion baseline tests. It is now an established component for concussion diagnosis and cares for athletes. A player’s record travels with him wherever he goes in the league, and his medical history is always close at hand.
Smart Patches: To deal with the growing concern about head injuries, X2 Biosystems developed two patches to evaluate concussions. Instead of using only helmet sensors, these patches are placed behind each one of a player’s ears and inside the upper gum shield. MC10’s BioStamp sensor is another small, wearable patch that monitors head impacts. These sensors record head impacts and import data into complementary applications.
Smart Collars: Q30 Innovations and Dr. David Smith of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, developed the Q-Collar to prevent brain damage. Surprisingly, it was inspired by an anatomical quirk in woodpeckers. These birds avoid brain damage when pecking against a tree by pressing their tongue against their jugular veins. This strategy increases blood pressure in the brain and reduces the “sloshing” effect which is a cause of traumatic brain injury.
When The Q-Collar is worn around an athlete’s neck, it similarly increases pressure on the jugular vein, keeping more blood in the skull. Essentially what it does is create an internal “airbag.”
HighandTight: American football coach Tom Creguer invented HighandTight to train athletes to reduce fumbles on the field. It employs an IoT (Internet of Things) approach to training and safety. A football equipped with sensors releases a sound if the ball isn’t held correctly and tight to the body. This technology is used in training by teams such as the Washington Redskins, Baltimore Ravens and Northwood University.
Safer Training: Football players put in many more hours practicing than on the field in games. This stresses the importance of safe training.
One of the unique advancements in football is the invention of Mobile Virtual Players (MVPs), which look like traditional tackling dummies. These 190-pound robots can transverse up and down a football field at 16 miles per hour, giving football players a virtual opponent to practice with. Using the robots for tackling instead of another player eliminates helmet-on-helmet crashes that result in so many concussions.
These are just a few examples of how technology is making the game of football safer and better. Stay tuned; there will be more to come.
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