Football helmet sensors monitor impact of collisions, tackles

football helmet sensor
Hendersonville High School linebacker Alex Lemmens shows the helmet he wears equipped with a sensor to measure the impact of hits. (Hendersonville Lightning)

The problem of concussions in football players arising from helmet-to-helmet collisions is receiving attention on a number of levels. According to an article in the Hendersonville Lightning, high schools in Hendersonville, North Carolina, are outfitting helmets with sensors that measure the G-force of hits on the field, in an effort to gauge the impact of collisions or tackles and flag possible concussions.

With donations from the Pardee Hospital Foundation, all four of the Hendersonville public high school football teams have helmets that a few athletes playing the more vulnerable positions will wear this season. According to the Hendersonville Lightning report, North Henderson has 12 sensor-equipped helmets and West Henderson, East Henderson and Hendersonville have four each.

"Our goal was to get 12 for each school," Karen Yagerhofer, of the Pardee Foundation, was quoted as saying. The helmets cost $500 each, compared to $300 for regular helmets. Pardee Hospital Foundation raised $8,600 in its cornhole tournament and used the proceeds to buy helmets. 

The dime-sized sensors are fitted within the helmets and measures the G-force of hits on the field. The program’s proponents hope this information can help warn of potentially damaging hits. According to the article, an objective cognition test is used to complement what can be a subjective opinion on whether the player has a concussion.

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The program is connected to the leading research program in the country into football concussions. The program has been used by the NCAA and the NFL to establish concussion treatment policies.

Dwayne Durham, director of Pardee’s sports medicine program, said in the report that the helmets neither prevent nor diagnose a concussion, but they can be valuable in alerting athletic trainers to high-impact hits that could result in a concussion.

"We’re going to be using this for data collection because what it does is whenever a player receives a hit the athletic trainer will have this sensor that is actually programmed to that helmet and it will tell us how many G-forces. It doesn’t mean the kid has a concussion, but if it rings the buzzer, we’re going the stop kids from playing just to make sure they’re OK.”

Pardee added that any hit over 90 G-force can potentially cause injury to the brain leading to a concussion, and early detection is critical to better treatment. “If they’re OK, we let ‘em go back,” he said. "If they’re not OK, they’re subject to a five-day treatment program.”

Jim Sosebee, the head football coach at Hendersonville High School, said in the report he's glad the school will be able to test the extra protection. “If players take a big hit "we can check on them using the tracker that reads the G-force. I'm guessing some of the biggest hits will be when they hit the ground."

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