Kansas to use impact-sensing mouthguards to help monitor concussions
In a contact sport like football, the risk of concussions exists on each play. New helmet technology has been introduced in recent years in efforts to combat this, and this spring, the University of Kansas football team will be among the first to try another new piece of technology: impact-sensing mouthguards.
According to the Kansas City Star, the mouthguards “let trainers monitor hits taken by individual players in real-time” and also “collect data to reveal trends across an entire season for the whole team.”
The mouthguards don’t diagnose concussions, but they do provide critical data to a team’s medical staff. From the Star:
To be clear, the mouthguards can’t diagnose concussions – that’s for training and medical staff to do. What they can do is measure impact to a player’s head and send a digital alert to coaches and trainers when someone’s taken a hit hard enough to cause a concussion. The mouthguards may be high-tech, but the good news is that football players don’t have to do anything they wouldn’t do with any old mouthguard. They pop it in and out of their mouth at will, Harper said, and the mouthguard does the rest – even sensing when to turn off and on.
Jesse Harper, the president and CEO of i1 Biometrics, the company that developed and sells the mouthguards, said “about 20 to 25 colleges” are ordering the product, with Kansas being one of the first.
Murphy Grant, Kansas’ assistant athletics director for sports medicine, told the Star he expects “about 80” players to try the mouthguards in spring practice.
“It’s going to be a very huge undertaking, but for us the safety and health care of our student-athletes is our number one priority,” Grant said. “If we can be a part of making the game safer – and keeping the game around – then we want to.”
If all goes well in spring, Grant said the program will keep the mouthguards when the season rolls around this fall.
The mouthguards use some pretty advanced technology. From the Star:
The mouthguards’ “ESP Chip Technology” measures the brain’s linear and rotational accelerations from impacts, according to i1 Biometrics. The mouthguards use an algorithm to measure, translate and wirelessly transfer data to a handheld mobile device used by trainers on the sidelines. The data can show the magnitude, location and direction of the impact. Trainers can use the information in real-time to, for example, pull out and physically evaluate a player who took an especially hard hit, Harper said.
The data evaluation continues after the game, too.
After the game, they can take a broader look at data collected for individual athletes – some of whom are affected differently by impacts than others – and for the whole team. Digital 3-D images can show the location and intensity of impacts on individual players’ heads, possibly helping identify trends such as improper hitting or tackling techniques, Harper said.
The data collected by the schools also gets sent back to i1 Biometrics for further evaluation from different teams (at all different levels) nationwide.
The end goal is simply to make the game safer moving forward – and this sounds like it could be a significant step.
For more Kansas news, visit JayhawkSlant.com.
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Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!