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NFL moving closer to using helmet sensors

Helmet Getty Images

With the NFL’s concussion liability regarding retired players on the way to being extinguished via settlement, the league can now focus on taking additional steps to limit liability to its current and future players.

After months of delay, the NFL could soon be putting sensors in helmets.

“Our goal is that by midseason we will have some teams geared up,” Kevin Guskiewicz, a University of North Carolina researcher and a member of the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee, said at a Wednesday event in Baltimore, via USA Today.  “We’re getting close, and I think that we have some teams identified.”

The NFL previously had been chasing its tail regarding helmet sensors, with the league referring questions from ESPN regarding the league’s failure to use helmet sensors to Guskiewicz, who was publicly advocating the use of helmet sensors.

Guskiewicz spoke openly in June 2012 about giving up on the effort to use sensors if the sensors weren’t used within the coming year.  At that same time, former Steelers receiver and current NBC analyst Hines Ward expressed concern about the approach.

“You’re gonna open up a while Pandora’s Box with it,” Ward told ESPN.  “For a doctor to read a computer and tell me how hard I’ve been hit and to pull me out of a game, that won’t sit well with a lot of players.”

It won’t, because many players want to try to persuade the coaching staff that they haven’t suffered concussions, even if they have.  Helmet sensors will give teams objective evidence to refute a player’s effort to avoid being yanked from play.

With the concussion litigation brought by former players tentatively resolved, the league can now focus on making the kind of improvements that would have been used against the NFL by those suing the league.  Although so-called “subsequent remedial measures” (i.e., steps taken to rectify a problem that caused an injury) technically aren’t permitted to be used in court, skilled lawyers have a way of skirting that rule and wedging into evidence at trial things the defendant did after the fact that could/should have been done earlier.

Indeed, the NFL also has now launched a $10 million incentive program that will reward those who come up with improved shock absorbent materials for helmets and other technologies to protect players from concussions.

It may be a coincidence that this program first emerged after the settlement was announced.  Or it may not be a coincidence.

Either way, the NFL is showing a new willingness to embrace technology as a way to address the problem of concussions.  Regardless of the reason or the time, it’s good that the league is taking these steps.

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57 Responses to “NFL moving closer to using helmet sensors”
  1. urbusted2 says: Sep 4, 2013 8:57 PM

    The NFL is litigating it’s own demise.

  2. moerawn says: Sep 4, 2013 9:01 PM

    What they should do is stop football at the Pop Warner and Midget levels. Then we could REALLY raise a nation of girls, just like they want.

  3. oxrageous says: Sep 4, 2013 9:01 PM

    Sensors may tell you how hard you were hit, but they won’t tell you if the player got a concussion. This isn’t going to end well.

  4. petedutcherjr says: Sep 4, 2013 9:04 PM

    Are they going to put sensors in knee pads? Because the fear of getting fined for hitting high is going to cause an outbreak of leg injuries that end careers this season.

    We’re already seeing guys hitting and blocking by going at knees.

  5. ronmexicothecoachkiller says: Sep 4, 2013 9:08 PM

    In theory, sensors are a great idea. In practicality, there are several inherent flaws to this idea. Can the “sensors” differentiate between a glancing blow to the head/helmet and a shot to the head/helmet that “rung a players bell?”

  6. patsbrat says: Sep 4, 2013 9:12 PM

    Putting numbers on the severity of actual game hits can be a very good thing for research into building better helmets. It also would not surprise me if the doctors establish some sort of line where they pull players from plays or games if the line is exceeded.

    But can’t you also imagine a player bragging how he ‘popped that dude with a 120?”

  7. waldoemerson19 says: Sep 4, 2013 9:13 PM

    I assume what they plan to use are accelerometers to measure the shock impact. What happens when the data from the accelerometers shows that the entire active roster has been concussed by the end of the fest quarter?

  8. bcajun says: Sep 4, 2013 9:16 PM

    This is all getting outta hand…want a tracking device too?

  9. macker1283 says: Sep 4, 2013 9:17 PM

    Yea, thats something that sounds good on paper but in reality, no, the popularity is going up every year. The fact that a guy sits out the second half because of a concussion is not going to stop that.

  10. zn0rseman says: Sep 4, 2013 9:21 PM

    So, if concussions and the use of helmets as weapons is such an important issue, I ask, why is the outside of the helmet a hard surface?

    Why not make it a soft, cushy, padded surface that isn’t prone to causig injury and will drastically lessen impacts?

  11. jmcghee0216 says: Sep 4, 2013 9:25 PM

    you would think they would have already started implementing this in past seasons…the technology can’t be that complicated

  12. ncarolinarn7 says: Sep 4, 2013 9:26 PM

    Here comes flag or two hand touch.

  13. stevent92 says: Sep 4, 2013 9:28 PM

    Two-hand touch within five years.

    Also, NFL will go from multi-billion dollar enterprise to multi-thousand dollar rec league.

    Thank you, trial bar…

  14. 2jivecrew says: Sep 4, 2013 9:33 PM

    Well until they figure out had to pad the inside of a players skull I doubt it’s going to matter a whole lot how the helmet technology develops. Force delivered to the head will always cause concussions, doesn’t matter what materials the padding, shell, or face mask is made of.

  15. polapea says: Sep 4, 2013 9:34 PM

    Sounds good in theory but everyone is physiologically unique, a hit that might concuss one person may not bother another.
    Call me crazy but mandatory mouthpieces would probably be a better place to start.

  16. southernpatriots says: Sep 4, 2013 9:39 PM

    The NFL and helmet manufacturers should and likely have the evidence already of space age shock absorbing cushions which have been available for decades now. $10 million more in an incentive program may bring those materials to implementation much quicker. This is something that is long overdue but better late than never.

    Sensors are quite controversial, as Mike Florio noted accurately. These sensors can tell physicians much but will be strenuously objected to by many players who want to continue to play. Perhaps some accommodations can be made in a balance. This is where the player’s union can come in with alternatives.

    Protection while at the same time protecting the game we have all come to love and support. That is the challenge.

  17. billbrasky72 says: Sep 4, 2013 9:41 PM

    Another step closer to replacing athletes with robots.

  18. grandsonofcoach says: Sep 4, 2013 9:42 PM

    They will need to expand rosters because I’m guessing more guys get their bell rung in games than we think. It could be a revolving door at some positions.

  19. threestepdrop says: Sep 4, 2013 9:43 PM

    So, the players don’t want to come out of a game, but will sue the NFL for doing nothing. Can’t have it both ways fellas

  20. gettingpwned says: Sep 4, 2013 9:45 PM

    The problem with this is that you’re never going to have people react the same way to different hits. And who’s to say a guy getting hit multiple times isn’t worse than 1 big hit, like in boxing? Hits wear on guys and it’s a science in its infancy.
    But I guess at least they’re trying?

  21. isphet71 says: Sep 4, 2013 9:48 PM

    I read NFL stories every day, literally every day, but I have not heard about the helmet sensor idea until just now.

    I assume it simply measures the speed of velocity changes afflicted to the head. Get above a certain level and boom – automatic concussion test on the sidelines.

    Hmm. Might be time to start allowing larger roster/dressed player sizes on game days to allow for all the players that will have to sit out for concussion tests every third play.

  22. t8ertot says: Sep 4, 2013 9:49 PM

    Will they have GPS? Maybe they’ll voice the routes for receivers

  23. nimbushex says: Sep 4, 2013 10:00 PM

    I’m not necessarily against them using the sensors, but I think the NFL seriously needs to look at expanding roster sizes with any move that increases the likelihood of players getting taken out of games.

  24. fearthehoody says: Sep 4, 2013 10:02 PM

    The fall of Rome.

  25. idolized1 says: Sep 4, 2013 10:04 PM

    Football is dangerous.

    Get over it.

  26. sandblastermoron says: Sep 4, 2013 10:07 PM

    Bring back spearing! Not this sissy ball!

  27. gohawks89 says: Sep 4, 2013 10:14 PM

    TWO HAND TOUCH HERE WE COME

  28. gdeli says: Sep 4, 2013 10:20 PM

    They’re gonna be lighting up like pinball machines, bells and all!

  29. beerbratscheese says: Sep 4, 2013 10:23 PM

    How about this: when players sign their contract, there’s a clause in that contract that says “we all know football can be dangerous. Play at your own risk”.

  30. phathead7 says: Sep 4, 2013 10:29 PM

    the 1st string will play the first quarter,2nd string will play the 2nd quarter,3rd string will play 3rd quarter,4th string will play the 4th quarter.i hope the rosters are 100 plus players instead of 53.the censors will be going off like crazy and there wont be enough players to finish the game.

  31. greenngld says: Sep 4, 2013 10:44 PM

    It’s actually an approach that might work. You want to stop players from leading with their head, tell them when a helmet sensor reaches a certain level, they are out of the game because it can result in a concussion.

  32. m526p says: Sep 4, 2013 10:48 PM

    when are they going to change the field itself to Field Turf for each and every field? a lot of concussions result from hitting their head hard on the ground. Also, changing the turf can slow down the players which in turn would lessen the impact of hits.

    From their website:

    An independent, three-year study of competitive college football showed that when compared to natural grass the FieldTurf system leads to:

    74% Fewer Muscle Tears 12% Fewer Concussions
    40% Lower ACL Trauma 10% Less Injury From Shoe Surface Interaction during Contact
    31% Fewer Ligament Tears 8% Less Injury From Shoe Surface Interaction during Non-Contact
    20% Fewer Severe Injuries 7% Fewer Total Injuries
    19% Fewer Substantial Injuries

  33. shayeezy says: Sep 4, 2013 10:48 PM

    players might balk at the idea, but they’ll come around, because it’s ultimately their brains and mental health being protected.

  34. bighurt228 says: Sep 4, 2013 10:50 PM

    With replays, and flags for a ton of illegal hits, and now sensors, we better be prepared for some 4 hour games or longer.

  35. swaggyy says: Sep 4, 2013 10:51 PM

    The No Fun League is moving closer to distinction

  36. drelms says: Sep 4, 2013 10:51 PM

    It’s quite plain to see that football players don’t have the propensity to admit when it’s time to sit down.

    They sometime remind me of the knight in the Monty Python and the Holy Grail movie who had an arm and leg cut off and was gushing blood from his wounds. He kept hopping around waving his sword trying to continue in his valiant effort to overcome his foe and uttered the immortal line, “It’s merely a flesh-wound”.

    Even though I never cared for the teams that Hines Ward played on, I always thought he was a good player who enjoyed the game. He played hard, I thought he was never a dirty player, but it’s obvious now that his comment was kind of stupid. Of course some players would never ever want out of a game, that’s understandable, maybe Ward should have had the guts to say what he thought, doctors have been taking players out of games for years, maybe it’s about time they safeguard the players more and take them out more, maybe this technology will allow that.

  37. aldog83 says: Sep 4, 2013 10:51 PM

    Why even have a defense.

    Just have a bunch of guys with helmet sensors play

    CATCH!!!

    for 3 hours!!!!!

    That will fill the stadium!

    Just have the NFL guys fill out a form that they may get sick and die for playing this sports they make Millions in.

    What’s Next!!!

    Sensors for Boxing, UFC, MMA?????????

    Sensors for the BEER bottles and Cigaretttes People drink and smoke!!!!!!!!!

    CMON!!!

    Disclaimer. you may get hurt, BAD….forever…

    You IN or OUT!

    (im sure the $$ will keep them all in, Deadliest Catch anyone?)

  38. Waffle 2.0 says: Sep 4, 2013 10:53 PM

    yeah, this is the beginning of the end.

  39. orivar says: Sep 4, 2013 10:55 PM

    The NFL isn’t going to last long.

  40. necr0philia says: Sep 4, 2013 10:58 PM

    All Good Things Come to an End! Yes, Even the NFL!!

  41. germanstingray says: Sep 4, 2013 11:12 PM

    This technology has been available for several years. The players have resisted it tooth and nail.

  42. moelester says: Sep 4, 2013 11:21 PM

    Pretty soon players are gonna be dressed like that kid on Little Giants with the snot coming out of his nose when his mom brings him to the first day of practice.
    I think he was also in an episode of Seinfeld and even got his own show called LLoyd.
    I wonder whatever happened to that kid.

  43. japmen says: Sep 4, 2013 11:40 PM

    Can’t afford not to find ways to increase player safety. This round of player litigation is just the first round. They may not want out of games but they sure will sue after they’ve scrambled their own eggs.

  44. jaggedmark says: Sep 5, 2013 12:04 AM

    Of course, use technology to it’s fullest, but football is a violent sport. It’s a game for the world’s greatest athletes, bravest of the brave, and beasts of the beasts.

    When it eventually becomes flag football (as it were), it will lose a ton of its appeal, unless fantasy football saves it.

    And let’s face it, fantasy football players aren’t consumed with the success and failures of ‘teams.’

    I want the strong safety to be able to make a game changing play with a legal hit, but when that gets compromised because of the rules, I’m out.

  45. steelers4385 says: Sep 5, 2013 12:10 AM

    I wonder if Goodell actually ever caught a football

  46. raiders742 says: Sep 5, 2013 12:40 AM

    We need the Raiders back!!!

  47. beach305 says: Sep 5, 2013 1:01 AM

    I don’t how anyone can blame the NFL, when its the former players who are bringing lawsuits. I for one believe that the game is better when players tackle properly rather than going for a head shot. The game has gotten away from proper technique into the big hit that mostly results in a miss tackle. Players need to learn how to tackle again.

  48. jameslongstaffe says: Sep 5, 2013 1:23 AM

    The problem in the NFL, is that medical coverage is a business venture, not voluntary. Groups vying for coverage to make a name. The players are the patients & that is lost somehow… as a doctor, I don’t think it’s ethical to stray from your job as a doctor. Coaches don’t decide who plays medically…

  49. NJ49er says: Sep 5, 2013 2:22 AM

    Tell me how Vegas, and those on the sidelines responsible for these decisions to remove a player, can’t influence the outcome of a game.

    Talk about ‘fixing’ a problem.

  50. jerseypatriot76 says: Sep 5, 2013 3:07 AM

    Great empires often crumble from within, no one is looking to unseat the NFL, the powers that be are tearing apart the foundation with their own hands.

  51. bartpkelly says: Sep 5, 2013 3:58 AM

    It may not sit well with players, but since their union and former players are suing the NFL they should have expected the NFL to do something.

  52. macbull says: Sep 5, 2013 6:38 AM

    Sensors in helmets?

    How about trying the PRO CAP?

    Why not try something that actually worked and was used by NFL players…the PRO CAP !

    Why not, Roger?

  53. jbeagles23 says: Sep 5, 2013 8:01 AM

    This whole lawsuit is pathetic. Bunch of goofs couldn’t save their money playing suing the greatest league in the world

  54. theslick50 says: Sep 5, 2013 9:13 AM

    Remove helmets and shoulder pads, if you really want to lessen the amount of concussions. Would we still watch the game if players were dressed in rugby unis? I would.

  55. jessejames182 says: Sep 5, 2013 9:40 AM

    I’m totally for breathalyzers at the satdium. Maybe finally putting a sensor on the goal line so we know when it’s punched in. I wouldn’t mind boycotting the NFL, but who would honestly stop watching, especially if you think your team has a shot?

  56. eatitfanboy says: Sep 5, 2013 11:31 AM

    I wonder if the people who think that all violence is being legislated out of the game are actually watching any football.

  57. robsr1967 says: Sep 5, 2013 3:09 PM

    This is what happens when you put a lawyer that never laced up cleats beyond Pop Warner in the big office. Soon tackling will be illegal and the uniform will be mini-skirts and stilettos.

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