Sensor technology embedded in helmets now has the ability to track and measure the impact and severity of head injuries from youth football through the NFL. According to Intel Sr. Technical Marketing Engineer, Bill Hannon, “Concussions are like a car hitting a wall at 35 miles per hour or 150 G’s.” Technology can indeed make the game safer.
Measuring Hit Impact
The biggest hits aren’t always the most damaging, location and repetition matter too. “Understanding the transfer of energy through a helmet and into the head in order to prevent brain damage is the goal.” said Bill. Football science and technology are producing unprecedented amounts of “Big Data” that’s helping to do just that. Data sets from practice and games are critical for implementing Intel Intelligent Systems architecture to accurately measure hit impacts.
The NFL commissioned a study as a possible step toward fitting players with sensors that would flag hazardous hits in real time. Kevin Guskiewicz, chair of the NFL subcommittee on safety equipment and playing rules, says the tests cover 12 helmet locations at five different velocities to simulate the conditions of player impacts during football games.
Helmet testing often uses a gas piston machine that rams into the helmet at different angles and force. Intel works with super computers that can simulate the same collisions from more angles and with more force factors. It then computes the real-time data in a matter of seconds showing the shock impact on the brain. According to Bill, “Monitoring the impact of a hit instantaneously on the sideline can be done via real-time simulations.”
The Dangers of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy)
The dangers of concussions and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) hit home when the posthumous tests conducted on former NFL linebacker Junior Seau indicated such blows occurred leading to his suicide. He had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease linked to repetitive head injuries. CTE causes neurobehavioral problems like memory loss, depression and suicidal thoughts, dementia and Alzheimer\’s.