Gripped firmly in the palm of his hand, St. Margaret's athletic trainer David Tomlinson holds the key to player safety data that could only be dreamed of a few years ago.
The small electronic device he holds, about the look and size of a cell phone, is connected to dozens of football helmets on the nearby practice field. Inside those helmets is a web of sensors that are in place to make sure St. Margaret's football players are being monitored better than ever before. Each helmet is given a unique number, which is then synced with the student-athlete’s name, uniform number and position.
Concussions in youth football is an issue demanding the attention of players, parents, coaches and administrators. Technology is working to provide new solutions to the need for improved diagnostics to these types of injuries. St. Margaret’s is staying at the forefront of that technology.
All St. Margaret’s football players will wear brand new Riddell helmets with the InSite Impact Response System beginning this school year. Rather than requiring physical symptoms of a concussion prior to intervention, the sensors inside the helmet detect when a hit has exceeded a safe amount of force. It will immediately send an alert to Mr. Tomlinson’s handheld device on the sidelines, giving trainers and coaches the name and number of the player, and the exact time and date that the impact occurred.
That timestamp is invaluable, says Mr. Tomlinson. It allows staff to immediately monitor the player--whether or not physical symptoms are evident--and then continue monitoring on an accurate timeline to determine if any concussion symptoms are present. If so, coaches and trainers follow St. Margaret’s concussion management plan to minimize the overall impact of the injury, a protocol that Mr. Tomlinson calls “detailed and robust.”
While the sensors can’t prevent the initial impact from taking place, that data is important in identifying and taking the right steps immediately, which can reduce the likelihood of Second Impact Syndrome (SIS) and other short- and long-term effects. In addition, the system provides a new level of data collection, logging all impact alerts so a player can be better monitored.
“It gives us more objective data to evaluate these students than we’ve ever had,” Mr. Tomlinson said.
While football helmets generally have a 10-year lifespan, St. Margaret’s elected to replace their 5-year-old helmets heading into this season with the new helmets that have the impact response system built in, along with other safety upgrades including more secure chinstraps and more strategic padding.
“We are always looking for ways to improve student-athlete safety and productivity,” St. Margaret’s Athletic Director Patrick Bendzick said. “Data analysis is often at the core of that process and the InSite system provides us with the ability to examine trends and proactively formulate protocols that are specific to the needs of our students.”
You can learn more about the Riddell Impact Response System on their website