High-tech football helmets help coaches cut head injuries

By  | 

LEBANON, N.H. (WCAX) -- The Lebanon Raiders of Lebanon, New Hampshire are preparing for Friday night's home opener. Ryan Shippa is heading into his senior year.

"Just hoping to walk out with a W," he said.

As the high school football team fine-tunes its game plan, coaches are making sure the kids don't get any unnecessary injuries.

"You know, we don't have a lot of numbers. It is definitely a key. We have got to stay healthy," Head Coach Chris Childs said.

Part of that includes heads up tackling and blocking drills to minimize impacts on the brain.

"When I played, the front of the helmet wouldn't have any paint on it and these kids, you look at the helmets and there are hardly any chips on it anymore. And it's not because it's better paint, but it's because we are proactive," Childs said.

And there's another tool, but you can't see it from the sidelines.

"It fits inside a football helmet, monitors head impacts out on the field and then those impacts are communicated to the sideline," said Jonathan Beckwith of Simbex.

The "impact response system" called InSite was created at Simbex, a Lebanon-based injury prevention company. For more than a decade, Simbex has been using the technology to collect data through a license agreement with Riddell, one of the best-known helmet-makers in the industry.

The sensor has collected data from 4.5 million head impacts at all levels of action, from the professionals to Pop Warner. But company officials make it clear that the product does not diagnose a concussion.

"Concussion is a broad spectrum of events and head impacts are extremely complex, so nothing we could do could replace the physician on the field," Beckwith said.

Instead, it alerts coaches through a monitor of higher head impact levels in a particular player. That allows the coach the chance to pull a player prior to an injury or to change the game plan.

"How to train athletes, how to create programs, how to conduct drills to basically de-risk the experience for the player," Beckwith said.

Lebanon has used the technology in its helmets for a couple of years. The team is one of about 1,000 across the country with more insight into the athletes.

"We wouldn't have that without the sensors to be able to check on the kid," Childs said. "We would have no idea."

And players, who are ready for a strong season, say a little common sense also goes a long way.

"If you are hurt, take it easy, don't push anything," Shippa advised. "Be smart."

Officials say the technology is not meant to keep kids from playing the sport they love, but rather give them and their coaches the information they need to keep them safe before they take the field.

Read the original version of this article at wcax.com.