'Tis the season for bowl games, and this year some football players will be equipped with hi-tech helmets that include tiny sensors tucked between pads that will monitor hits to the head.
This technology not only enables trainers to monitor players during a game, but it is also providing scientists with new insight into brain injuries. Researchers at the University of North Carolina have been surprised by one finding: it's not just the hard hits that send a bell ringer to the brain.
Jason Mahalik, a researcher at UNC says, "As the players get hit, what it's telling us is how hard they are getting hit, the magnitude of that impact, and the location of the impact and duration of the impact."
Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz, Ph.D., UNC Senior Researcher adds, "...in many cases it is subtle impacts to helmet that are just as concerning."
Those subtle impacts that the crowd might miss are picked up and recorded in real time by the tiny sensors in the helmet. That data is then transmitted to a sideline computer.
UNC researchers have already found evidence that some of the biggest hits to the head often happen during what are considered light practice days. The findings also suggest that hits to the top of the head may be the most dangerous.
The UNC research is still in progress, but the findings have already changed some tackling techniques at the University of North Carolina. This research is published in the Journal Neurosurgery.