According to a USA today report this month, the NFL is currently reviewing the use of sensors on helmets and mouth guards in an attempt to learn more about brain and spinal cord injuries in the future. The article says that the league’s head, neck and spine committee is using research based at the University of North Carolina to hopefully introduce some new technology to the game in the near future.
The report says that the league is currently reviewing to see if these helmet sensors are reliable, then will hopefully run testing in practice and play on a sample of different players. A compilation of data in the coming years could become league wide and signal the changing of certain rules, in regards to brain and spinal injuries.
The USA today says that the research is taken by test blows on the helmets at different speeds and angles from compressed air. This compression then uses the force of a ramrod in the shape of a helmet to test what would have similar feeling and impact of a game time hit to a football helmet.
The report also states that the helmets and sensors are being tested on hybrid head forms, which unlike dummies can translate data to computers. These hybrid head forms also contain a flexible jaw which allows for the testing of sensors in mouth guards as well. According to the article, this form is covered with a rubber mold which is a close representation of a head and face, while there is also a nylon piece to simulate hair in between the skull and helmet.
The research is being taken on helmet maker Riddell’s newest products, the Revolution and Revolution Speed. The report claims that the sensors on these products use a telemetry system to send wireless data to a computer through frequencies. The report also states that the sensor readings from the helmet, mouthpiece, and head form are reviewed separately.
The study and research is based on the large number of concussions and post retirement brain injuries surrounding the NFL recently. According to the USA Today report, the committee is hoping to run a pilot program on five or six teams in the near future and then hopefully implemented league wide afterwards.
The sensor system has already been tested by the North Carolina football team for nearly six seasons now. According to the report, the results from the trial experiments on the UNC football team have recorded around 250,000 hits in six years. Those involved have stated that players were concussed in numerous different ways and angles of impact.
According to USA Today, researchers will move forward, looking to verify that the helmet sensors properly measure. From that point, they plan to try and find data patterns and present a valid case to the NFL competition committee. As stated in the report, the end goal for the NFL and their head, neck and spine committee is to find a helmet that can help prevent skull fractures and bleeding in the brain.
Mihoces, Gary. (June 17, 2011). “Helmet Sensors Could Soon Measure NFL’s Biggest Hits.” Retrieved on July 5, 2011 from USA Today