Head impact sensors could be instrumental in concussion research. (David Bergman/SI)
If a group of researchers have their way, all NFL players will be wearing helmets with head impact sensors by the 2015 season.
That's the hope of Kevin Guskiewicz, a University of North Carolina researcher who is also a member of league and union safety committees. According to a USA Today report, two companies are preparing accelerometer devices that would measure the frequency, location and magnitude of impacts and could be used by an expanding number of NFL teams in the coming seasons.
Two unnamed NFL teams participated in the pilot project last season. A larger expansion is expected this year, and the hope is that all 32 teams will eventually be wearing the devices. The league has yet to officially sign off on such a proposal.
"We need a sample of these players across all positions and studying every play type possible," Guskiewicz told USA Today. "So, that's the next step. Then I hope from there that, if we find [the devices] have utility that could actually help an individual player … my hope would be that we would go league-wide."
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Head injuries have been a central focus of the increased player safety measures the league has promoted and enacted in recent years. Both NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith both addressed the issue before Congress in 2009, and a $765 million class action settlement with retired players over concussion-related brain injuries is currently on hold.
As the report details, the sensors can be paired with game film, allowing teams to educate players on what plays result in the most severe impact. With the additional data made available to teams that incorporate the technology, the coming seasons may offer a more complete picture of a head-injury issue that has long been clouded by issues of uncertain causation.