NFL examines sensors in helmets to measure impact of hits


As the NFL continues to look for new ways to protect players from serious injuries in high-impact collisions, the league is looking at a high-tech solution.

USA Today has a report on the work being done at the Southern Impact Research Center, where sensors in helmets and mouth guards are being used to collect data bout hits.

Right now, the research consists of measuring helmet collisions caused by compressed air, but if the NFL determines that the research is useful, the next step is to have select players wear the equipment in practices and games.

Falcons President Rich McKay says he looks forward to examining the data in his role as chairman of the Competition Committee.

“It should help when we talk about all issues. That includes the rules on game day, offseason rules and training camp rules,” McKay said. “Because the one thing we’re in search for is as much data as we can get with respect to brain trauma.”

If the NFL finds the data to be helpful, we may some day see every player in the league with a sensor in his helmet.

10 responses to “NFL examines sensors in helmets to measure impact of hits

  1. When a player is missing half his skull (as depicted in the illustration), he shouldn’t even be allowed to take the field.

    Full skull but half a brain? Oh, those are PFT’s Turd Watch standouts.

  2. Until the NFL gets rid of its silly rules they they made to “protect” the players (made by non-players) this will be an ongoing concern. When athletes were on the field they could maneuver themselves into a position when they were about to get hit so as to not get injured. But, let’s face it, when players are pushing 350 on a regular basis, how agile can they be?

    Bring back the athlete and full natural turf stadiums which will limit the traction the players will have against one another and you will see this problem go back you normal. Oh, here’s one that will never happen. Stop letting the players hit each other with their heads – bring back the leather helmet – but that will never happen.

  3. The marketable modern helmet. Ah yes. Who cares that these guys are dying young. We are making billions off of them.

    Dave Duerson pretty much offered his brain in an ice box so that the NFL would do something about this.

  4. “If the NFL finds the data to be helpful, we may some day see every player in the league with a sensor in his helmet.”

    Get a couple of engineering student summer interns and I’m guessing they could come up with some fairly accurate numerical models in a lab setting in short order – fairly inexpensively.

    After they generate the models, then instrument up a few helmets and put em on a some players to prove out the calculations. Then you’ll have all the information you need.

    There’s no need to permanently instrument players since the physics doesn’t change – given player weights, speed and helmet materials remain relatively constant.

  5. ajtexans is right. I’m a big proponent of gathering data and making informed decisions rather than the current model of changing rules on a whim with no idea if they address the issue. But since the mechanics of the game remain constant, it will only take a few players at key positions wearing the sensors for a few games to gather the necessary data. Nothing more can be gained from wiring players long-term.

    This year the NCAA will be enforcing stricter rules on buckling chin straps to ensure helmets remain in place, then collecting data to determine how these rules affect the number and severity of head injuries. It’s a one-season test. It’s not necessary to study these things indefinitely to get answers.

  6. As I’ve commented before, brain injury should be topic 1 for the NFL, NCAA and high schools because it is the “Achilles heel” of football. Today’s helmets only protect the skull and do little to minimize the brain banging around inside the skull which is the source of brain injury. While it may take several years, continued research will ultimately establish enough of a connection between playing football and brain injuries that will force universities and high schools to drop football because of of potential liability issues. The NFL’s free minor league system will dry up and young athletes will play other sports in order to get scholarships.

    With that likely scenario facing the NFL, they should be at the forefront of helmet design and development. I think the NFL can learn a great deal from Indy car and Formula 1 racing where car designers have developed ways to protect drivers through materials that dissipate vast amounts of energy very quickly before it gets to the driver. I also believe that that auto racing helmet technology can provide useful data. Due to the importance of the helmets “look”, I suggest that the design be a multilayer design based on a frame which incorporates the facemask as well as some form of “whiplash” protection for ground impacts. There would be energy dissipating cushioning under the frame and a replaceable shell on top that would dissipate the majority of impact’s energy by cracking/shattering like your car’s windshield. Once cracked, it would be easily replaced with a new shell.

    Brain injury research will continue, especially because it is the Number One injury suffered by our brave soldiers these days. If the NFL is not pro-active about this subject, the personal injury lawyers may kill football if there is not a helmet design very soon that vastly reduces the risk of brain injury.

  7. I don’t see the value in high tech means of collecting head trauma data, when there is already a walking comprehensive case study named Terry Bradshaw. What else is there to know?

  8. So the NFL needs high tech sensors installed in helmets to collect data ?

    …data?…But we already know that today’s helmets are not getting the job done.

    The NFL says it is looking for a “high tech” solution?

    Why does the solution have to be “high tech” and how long do they have to look before acting?

    The NFL continues to use the same basic football helmet that dates back to the 50s..a plastic outer shell with padding added to the inside.

    The football helmet I wore in the early 70s, was the same basic design as today’s NFL helmets…a hard plastic outer shell with padding and/or air bags located on the inside for padding…that was 40 yrs ago.

    It is time to face some facts while using our “common sense”..there is only so much you can do with a helmet design that has not progressed over time.

    I do realize different shapes have been tried and different types of padding, but the NFL has used the same basic design for nearly 50 yrs.

    The NFL has been aware of different designs that where successfully used by some of the NFL’s best players, dating back to 1967 when Willie Lanier suffered a career threatening concussion during his rookie season.

    One of Lanier’s KC Chiefs trainers came up with the idea of adding a 4 inch wide strip of foam padding to the “outside” of his standard issue hard plastic helmet.

    Lanier played another 10 yrs and left the game as one of the very best middle LBers of all time. Obviously, adding padding to the “outside” of Lanier’s standard issue, hard plastic helmet, helped to extend his career. Lanier did not suffer another concussion during his 11 yr career.

    The NFL has had this info since 1967 and have not acted…that is some major foot dragging by the NFL !

    In 1989, Buffalo Bills safety, Mark Kelso, was faced with early retirement after the Bills medical staff became worried about Kelso’s history of concussions. The Bills medical staff decided to try something new, to help ease Kelso’s risk of concussion, opting to fit his helmet with an outer layer of padding, called the “Pro Cap”.

    Kelso’s experience with adding a layer of padding to the outside of his helmet was very similar to Willie Lanier’s experience. Kelso credit’s the “Pro Cap” with adding 5 yrs to his NFL career. Kelso claims the added padding allowed him to play “with the confidence and aggression I needed.”

    Offensive tackle, Steve Wallace suffered his share of concussions during his 12 yr career, but he too, began wearing a “Pro Cap” due to his frequent head injuries. It was later in his career before he tried the “Pro Cap” but Wallace said he never suffered another concussion from the time he started wearing it.

    As I said, the NFL has been aware that adding padding to the outside of helmets eases the risk of concussion, for a long time…dating back to 1967.

    Why the NFL has not mandated the wearing of a helmet with padding to the outside of the hard shell is a question Roger Goodell needs to answer.

    IMO, Roger needs to stop screwing around with the way NFL players tackle and find the courage to do what is right…mandate padding be added to all NFL helmets.


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