M2M Tackles Concussions


Everyone knows football is a rough-and-tumble sport. But is it too violent? That question has come up more often in recent years as additional research about CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) has come to light. Some researchers have suggested a possible link between multiple concussions—such as those sustained during the course of a professional football career—and the brain disease. While the link isn’t proven, the issue has ignited a heated debate over player safety. 

The subject is once again thrust into the spotlight after this past weekend in the NFL when three quarterbacks were knocked out of games due to hits that were ultimately determined to have caused concussions. Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears, Alex Smith of the San Francisco 49ers, and Michael Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles all sustained concussions during games this past Sunday. Circumstances like these beg the question: Can M2M do anything to help?

Multiple companies are working on the problem. Probably the best-known helmet company, Riddell, www.riddell.com, has developed technologies called HITS (head impact telemetry system) and SRS (sideline response system). The HITS system is designed to monitor head impact and transmit on-field data via wireless communication. Sensors are embedded inside the helmet and work to monitor and record the location, magnitude, duration, and direction of head impacts and impact accumulations.

HITS can work with the SRS system to relay data to coaches or doctors on the sidelines. The sensors can transmit realtime information using wireless transmitters. The data related to impacts is sent to a secure database, where it can be accessed by players, coaches, and medical professionals. Riddell also offers a suite of software tools, called RedZone Reports, to provide users with analysis of head impacts for individual players or the entire team.

Companies like Riddell are making efforts to show they take concussions seriously. This past summer, Riddell teamed with USA Football on a Protection Tour aimed at promoting proper equipment fitting, tackling fundamentals, and concussion awareness and management for youth players.

Another technology for reducing the severity of head impacts comes from MIPS, www.mipshelmet.com, a company that aims to reduce the stress placed on the brain during a blow. The company’s technology, called MIPS (multi-directional impact protection system) includes a helmet liner designed to imitate the brain’s cushion of low-friction cerebrospinal fluid. The technology is tested using computer simulations that include a model of the human head, and the company says MIPS works by slightly shifting the helmet’s position on the head on impact.

It’s anyone’s guess if the NFL will someday change its policies regarding concussions. But more advanced sensors and other technologies for helmets are working to try and reduce the effects. To learn more about this topic, read the article “Brace for Impact” in the Sep/Oct issue of Connected World magazine.

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