How hard does your football team hit?
A new device helps football teams evaluate players' injuries
The Indiana University football team is attacking the 21st century head-on. And now its members will know how hard they hit it.
That's because IU became the first Big Ten school to purchase the Sideline Response System (SRS) this past July. The technology was developed by Simbex and tested at the University of North Carolina, Virginia Tech and the University of Oklahoma four years ago under the name Head Impact Telemetry System (HITS).
With SRS, six accelerometers are placed on the inside of a helmet. When a player gets hit, the sensors send the data to a main console, which stands at the 50-yard line. The hit is measured in terms of g-forces. One "g" is equal to the force of earth's gravity.
"The recommended threshold of g's is 98," said Dean Kleinschmidt, head athletic trainer for IU's football team. "So if a sensor records an impact of over 98, a beeper goes off, and an athletic trainer goes to check on the player."
The football team has enough sensors for 40 players to wear, all of which can be monitored simultaneously.
"Anyone with a previous history of head injuries gets one," Kleinschmidt said, "as well as starters at positions with a high risk of hard hits, such as quarterbacks, defensive backs, defensive linemen and special teams players.
Kleinschmidt said the purchasing of the system was a group decision. Riddell, the company that manufactures the helmets and now sells the SRS system, gave a presentation to Kleinschmidt. He thought enough of the system to invite other coaches and doctors to a demonstration.
After some creative management of funds, and Riddell agreeing to a deal that included some new helmets and a price break, the purchase was completed.
The system, Kleinschmidt said, is just another tool in evaluating injuries. He added that technology will never replace a doctor's judgment of who should play and who shouldn't.
"There are three main reasons we acquired the SRS system," Kleinschmidt said. "First and foremost, we are dedicated to making sure our health care is the best it can be. Secondly, it is an educational tool. If the same player beeps everyday in the same drill, we can watch the video and see if his technique is wrong."
The SRS systems records exactly what time the hit occurred and the coaches can then go back and look at the practice tapes. If a player is leading with his head blocking or tackling, the coaches can fix his technique and prevent future injuries.
"The third reason is for a recruitment tool. If a concerned mother walks in and asks how we are going to take care of her boy in such a dangerous game, we can show her the SRS system. The players may not care, but it might help ease the concerns of some parents," Kleinschmidt said.
Since Kleinschmidt and his staff arrived at IU in 2004, they have been dedicated to bringing the best health care possible to the football team.
Before he arrived, the team was using cheap mouth guards. Kleinschmidt switched to mouth guards that cost seven times as much, but help protect against concussions. They also switched to personalized knee braces that are much more effective, albeit more costly.
Kleinschmidt said, "I was hired to provide the best sports medicine care I can, and I thought the SRS system would give us an edge. I am very happy with it after one season, and am glad we have it."