Researchers use sensors to measure intensity of hit

November 11, 2014

Topic: concussions

A new sensor that can detect the severity of a hit in a sport such as football may soon be on the market.

A new sensor that can detect the severity of a hit in a sport such as football may soon be on the market. These sensors could help develop better helmets and preventative measures for concussions, which are continually increasing throughout the nation.

A rising concern
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the rates of emergency room admissions for traumatic brain injuries have increased in every age group. However, the rates increased the most among youth athletes who are 4 years and younger, rising by more than 50 percent. The next highest age group was people between the ages of 15 and 24.

Researchers from the University of Florida plan to use the helmets of Florida Gators football players to determine how hard some of the team is hit. Some hits in football can render a force of 100 Gs. That power is so great, it can trigger a concussion and is more powerful than an F-16 jet roll maneuver. The researchers hope placing sensors on the helmets can help them learn more about concussions and pinpoint what exactly can cause them.

Collaborating efforts
The study was funded by the Banyan Biomarkers and the Florida High Tech Corridor Council. With the financial backing, the group of researchers were able to afford the Head Impact Telemetry System, simply known as HITS. The technology can measure the impact, length and location of each hit using sensors. The researchers plan to use the data from the sensors in combination with information from blood tests and magnetic resonance imaging tests. The study authors hope a comparison of all three will give them a better idea of what occurs during a concussion.

"We are still trying to find objective ways to detect concussions and help us know when someone is recovered so they can return to play," lead researcher James Clugston, M.D., said in a statement. "We wanted to get a measure of the amount of force that athletes were experiencing. With this system, we will get real-time data to assess the severity of the impact."

The study is ongoing, and began in August 2014. They are collecting data from 30 football players on the team. Aside from the collective data, individual information gathered by the sensors can advise each player. The sensors can help the study authors note players' actions, such as putting their head down before a hit. This action is highly dangerous and puts athletes at risk for concussions as well as spinal cord injuries. After noting this, the researchers advised the coaches so they could speak with players to correct it.

Acknowledging the rate of change
Overall, the study authors hope to use the technology to track the amount of hits a player sustains over a period of time.

"You may see that a player has had many hits in a week, season or career," Clugston said in a statement. "Some studies show that the risk of concussion goes up based on how many hits a player received in the preceding days as well as how many concussions they may have had in the past."

A report from the Institute of Medicine and National Research stated that football players sustain concussions 4.3 out of the 10,000 times they were on the field during practice or playing time.

Clugston and his colleagues have continually received funding for researching brain injuries. In the past, the researchers have collected blood samples from players after concussions and during normal play to witness if a certain type of blood protein increases. Last year, the study authors also conducted MRIs on players to help draw conclusions.

The group believes their extensive amount of research will help determine which athletes have sustained the hardest hits and what the composition of their blood looks like. They noted using the HITs technology can help the researchers see the big picture and bring all the data together

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