Taking It on the Chin

Can strap-on sensors help prevent brain injuries in football?
January 31, 2011

As more is learned about the risk of concussions in football, from the NFL down to high school and youth leagues—where players are particularly vulnerable—the importance of a quick and proactive response to any suspected head injury is becoming ever clearer. What is also becoming clear is that relying on a high school football player to take himself out of the game after a concussive shot to the head is a losing medical strategy. Might as well ask if he wants to play in a tutu.

So a helmet featuring a chinstrap equipped with sensors that make the call themselves could be a brain saver. That's the idea behind the Indicator, an electronic chinstrap that gauges hits (based on accelerometer software technology) and uses colored lights to indicate the probability that a player has suffered a concussion. The Indicator, which should reach shelves this summer at a cost of $40 to $50, was field-tested this month in practices before the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio. "We're measuring the g-force, duration and direction of a hit. The device just says, There was a large hit, check the kid out," said Chris Circo, CEO of Battle Sports Science, which developed the Indicator. The difficulty, though, is in identifying criteria that define a bell-ringing blow.

Studies employing football helmets equipped with accelerometers have found that there is no particular g-force that can indicate a concussion in an individual player. Last year Purdue University researchers tracked hits on a high school team over an entire season and documented blows below 100 g's that caused concussions as well as some above 200 g's that did not. In that study the number of blows to the head over the season was a better indicator of impaired brain function than was the severity of a particular shot.

"We sincerely hope that there will be a device that can determine when an athlete is at risk of [head] injury," says Eric Nauman, one of the Purdue researchers, "but right now it isn't feasible due to the limited understanding of the biomechanics surrounding concussions." Still, Circo notes that for the many high school teams that don't have a certified athletic trainer, the Indicator is another set of electronic eyes on the field.

Bringing Up Baby

Sizing up the junior class

Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov lost in the second round of the Australian Open last week, suggesting that the 19-year-old dubbed Baby Federer has a way to go before he grows into his nickname. Here's how three other sporting babes measure up to the parental image.

ORIGINAL BABY
Michael Jordan Harold Miner
Burdened by MJ tag, Miner was four-year NBA bust.
PTS 32,292 1,801
REB 6,672 432
AST 5,633 245
Terrell Owens Brandon Marshall
Baby T.O. broke original's single-game catch record.
REC 1,078 413
TD 153 28
YDS 15,934 5,033
Jaromir Jagr Michael Frolik
Baby Jagr, a fellow Czech, is in year 3 with Panthers.
G 646 50
A 953 64
PTS 1,599 114

Screwball Pitches

These new projects seem downright unreal

Friday Night Lights,Lombardi, The Fighter—sports-themed entertainment is booming, and there's more to come. Guess which of the following projects are real and which are fake:

A. Feature film based on the Madden NFL video game curse.

B. Reality show about the lives of female baseball groupies.

C. Album of ambient sounds recorded after hours at the Bucks' Bradley Center.

D.Wipeout-style show based on the '80s video game Pac-Man.

E. Broadway musical about the Zidane-Materazzi '06 World Cup head-butt.

F. Game show, hosted by Jerry Rice, built around playing catch.

ANSWERS: All but C and E are at least in the developmental stage.

PHOTOWAYNE HELTON/BATTLE SPORTS SCIENCE LLC (HELMETED PLAYER)POINT OF IMPACT A potentially harmful hit will set off the Indicator's colored warning light. PHOTOBEN VAN HOOK (JORDAN) PHOTOKEVORK DJANSEZIAN/AP (MINER) PHOTOTODD KIRKLAND/ICON SMI (OWENS) PHOTOSTEVE MITCHELL/US PRESSWIRE (MARSHALL) PHOTOBRUCE BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES (JAGR) PHOTOELIOT J. SCHECHTER/NHLI/GETTY IMAGES (FROLIK) PHOTOBRAD MANGIN (RICE)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)