Loudoun County won’t allow our kids to measure the impact of crashing into each other on the football field – even if that information might guard against brain injuries.
Our County school system should have its collective head examined.
The NFL earlier this year said that nearly three in ten retired players will develop debilitating brain conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
The NFL has reportedly put the same sensors in its players’ helmets as the military is using to evaluate those jarring head movements that could lead to traumatic brain injury (“TBI”).
The American Football League announced earlier this year that they were requiring helmet mounted sensors made by Brain Sentry out of Maryland.
The sensor gives an alert when a player suffers an unusually rapid acceleration of the head, making that player a candidate for a concussion or for successive concussions that must be accurately and timely evaluated to assure the player’s safety. The sensor also counts the number of hits to a player’s head.
AFL Commissioner, Jerry B. Kurz, said, “[U]ntil we saw the Brain Sentry impact counter and tested it, we did not feel there was a solution that was practical and deployable for the AFL.”
The sensor is a light weight micro-electromechanical, tri-axial acceleromoter capable of measuring acceleration from any direction, attached to the helmet, and it interferes not at all in the field of play.
We are almost at the end of an era of “dumb helmets” – because we need more real-time objective information to guard against players of any age suffering a possible brain injury.
One report claims that the concussion rate for High School athletes in the United States has doubled since 2005, meaning either the injuries have increased or reporting has improved dramatically.
Loudoun parents went out and bought these Brain Sentry sensors – the same ones the AFL is using – to put on their sons’ helmets to assure some greater measure of safety when playing for Loudoun Valley. The coaches had the players remove the helmets. The players could have non-contact drills without the helmets. But they could not have any contact drills with the sensors on the helmets. Troubling “logic!”
Judgment of a possible injury by the visual observation of a coach or trainer or by the player reporting on himself is not sufficient. Presently concussions are under reported with an alarming variance from the incidence of concussions actually suffered. In fact, players polled report three times as many concussions as the athletic trainers estimated.
It’s critically important to know that there was a first concussion because the second concussive hit may prompt brain swelling. The athlete who has suffered an earlier concussion, that’s the very one who should have a helmet sensor to give fair warning of a successive concussion. Repeated hits to a helmet could rightly prompt a coach to ask, “How are you doing son, are you dizzy, do you have headaches, are you short of breath, disoriented?” Without these sensors, these question may go unasked when they really need to be asked.
The helmet is old school low tech, but much improved over the years, and important to safety. These new tech sensors are an improvement that serves to protect our children and just may keep this cherished team sport alive.
We need to get aggressive about how we protect our young in this aggressive sport – and sensors is one way for our school system to do that next season. It’s really a no-brainer.