M2M Keeps Your Head in the Game

Head injuries are never something to take lightly, but this is especially true for athletes who play contact sports. A severe blow to the head may force an athlete to retire, drastically alter their way of life, or even threaten their lives. Thankfully, the world of M2M and connected devices has produced some solutions designed to keep athletes safe and healthy during a game.

One such device is the Checklight, developed by Reebok, www.reebok.com, and MC10, www.mc10inc.com. A washable beanie which can be worn either by itself or under a helmet, the Checklight uses sensors to monitor head trauma and provide realtime data to athletes, parents, coaches, and trainers.

The device comes with a light, which provides visual cues. A green light indicates the device is active, but no trauma has been sustained. A yellow light indicates a moderate, though not necessarily hazardous impact. A red light indicates a severe impact. While not a diagnostic tool, the device is intended to aid in decision-making during a game. For instance, a coach might need to decide whether it’s in a player’s best interest to stay in a game, and would be able to use the Checklight as an indicator.

Another company, X2 Biosystems, www.x2biosystems.com, took a smaller approach to detecting head trauma with the X-Patch. Roughly the size of a quarter, the adhesive patch is worn behind a player’s ear during a game, and wirelessly sends impact data to the sidelines. The patch is also able to differentiate between linear and rotational impacts, and determine impact location and direction.

When equipped properly, a piece of sporting equipment can become a connected device itself. Riddell, www.riddell.com, the company which supplies helmets for the National Football League, www.nfl.com, has used this principle to benefit athletes competing on one of the grandest stages in sports.

The organization has developed two technologies: HITS (head impact telemetry system) and SRS (sideline response system). The HITS system monitors head impact using sensors inside the helmet. It subsequently works with the SRS system to transmit data to doctors on the sidelines, who then act accordingly. Riddell also offers a suite of software tools called RedZone reports, which provides impact analysis for a given player, or even an entire team.

M2M’s role in research on concussions and head trauma extends to the university level, as well. Stanford University, www.stanford.edu, recently equipped its football team with special mouthpieces containing small sensors. The idea was to help scientists understand what sort of football collisions cause concussions, and of any particular plays or positions are riskier than others.

Researchers also used high-definition, slow-motion cameras which monitor special markings on helmets to track impact velocity. The data gathered will later be used to develop new gear for players, and institute new safety rules.

The physicality of sports is often the key to their appeal. But at the end of the day, every athlete should be able to walk back to the locker room in good health. M2M and connected devices will play a vital role in ensuring safer games for the athletes of tomorrow.

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June/July 2014
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