Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

High school footballers wearing special helmets to monitor brain injuries

01.10.2007
As they root for the home team from their bleacher seats this fall, high school gridiron fans in the small Illinois town of Tolono don’t necessarily see anything out of the ordinary down on the field.

But just out of sight, tucked inside many of the maroon helmets worn by the Unity High School Rockets, a revolution of sorts is taking place. This season, 32 varsity team members are sporting helmets outfitted with the same electronic encoder modules now used by a handful of college teams.

The purpose of the high-tech headgear, which uses six strategically placed, spring-loaded accelerometers to wirelessly beam information to a Web-based system on a laptop computer on the sidelines, is to more effectively – and more immediately – detect when blows to players’ heads may result in concussions or more severe brain injuries.

In addition, impact data – including location of hits, magnitude of force and length of hits – is recorded for analysis by a University of Illinois research team led by kinesiology and community health professor Steven Broglio.

“Unity is the only high school in the country using the Head Impact Telemetry System, or HITS,” Broglio said. “There are 1.2 million high school football players across the nation,” he said. “This is a huge population we don’t know much about.”

The system being used in the research partnership between the U. of I. and Unity was developed by Simbex, a research and product-development company based in New Hampshire. It works in tandem with helmets made by Riddell, the nation’s largest helmet manufacturer, and was first tested on the Virginia Tech football team in 2002.

Broglio said a number of other researchers at universities across the nation, including Virginia Tech, the University of North Carolina and Dartmouth, also are using the system as the basis for studies of biomechanical processes caused by concussions and traumatic brain injuries.

At Unity, each varsity player was given a baseline assessment for neurocognitive function prior to the start of the season.

“The baseline assessments are all over the map,” Broglio said. “Because the kids’ brains are still developing, they have different ranges and abilities.”

On the field during practice or on game day, when the encoder in an athlete’s helmet registers a hit, the system beams impact information to the sidelines laptop, which is monitored by the team’s athletic trainer.

“If an athlete is diagnosed with a concussion, he will not return to play until neurocognitive function returns to baseline performance,” Broglio said.

The fact that high school athletes’ brains may not yet be as fully developed as their college or professional counterparts is a large part of Broglio’s motivation for studying the system’s effectiveness on the younger players.

The U. of I. researcher noted in many high schools across the country it’s not unusual for players to take a forceful hit, sit out briefly, then return to play. And sometimes they’ll even mask symptoms from coaches and trainers because they don’t want to miss the action.

Unfortunately, Broglio said, “what other researchers are finding is that people with multiple concussions have incurred Alzheimer’s Disease at a higher rate. Getting their ‘bell rung’ as high school athletes may have permanent repercussions. There seems to be a link.”

He noted that there’s also some evidence in the literature that among high school athletes, the force of an impact may actually be less than it is with older players.

The main focus of Broglio’s continuing research is to sort it all out – to determine how the younger players actually function on the field, and gather data that “will ultimately protect and treat athletes who suffer concussive head injuries.”

“We will look at how hard and where they get hit,” he said, adding that one possible outcome of the work may be determining the need to develop a different type of helmet for high school athletes.

“We may find they’re getting hit in different places and need more padding in those areas of the helmet, for example.”

In Tolono, the system’s ability to monitor where athletes are incurring hits has already led to another discovery, just a couple of weeks into the season.

“The system picked up one athlete who was hitting with the top of his head, a practice that could result in spinal-cord injury,” Broglio said. Because they were able to identify the pattern, the team’s coaches were able to work with the athlete to correct the habit.

“As we’ve gone through this first few weeks using the system, for the most part it’s been very good,” said Scott Hamilton, the Rockets’ head coach. “As this revolutionizing (of the sport) gets better and better, it will be great. Anything to protect our kids is a wonderful concept.”

As is often the case with most innovative technologies when they’re first developed, however, the initial cost of the system is likely to prohibit widespread use – especially at the high school level. Broglio said the system being tested at Unity has a price tag of about $60,000; each helmet costs an additional $1,000.

Nonetheless, he and Hamilton remain hopeful that as more companies compete and additional systems enter the marketplace, the cost eventually will become more affordable for more schools.

“Anytime you talk about money, it’s a fine line between how much money do you spend, and how much is it worth to protect the kids.”

Melissa Mitchell | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uiuc.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Indications of Psychosis Appear in Cortical Folding
26.04.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht GLUT5 fluorescent probe fingerprints cancer cells
20.04.2018 | Michigan Technological University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Why we need erasable MRI scans

New technology could allow an MRI contrast agent to 'blink off,' helping doctors diagnose disease

Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is a widely used medical tool for taking pictures of the insides of our body. One way to make MRI scans easier to read is...

Im Focus: BAM@Hannover Messe: innovative 3D printing method for space flight

At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.

Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...

Im Focus: Molecules Brilliantly Illuminated

Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.

Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

World's smallest optical implantable biodevice

26.04.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Molecular evolution: How the building blocks of life may form in space

26.04.2018 | Life Sciences

First Li-Fi-product with technology from Fraunhofer HHI launched in Japan

26.04.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>