Technology is at a stage where it can solve just about any problem. It has risen to be one of the most dependable sources in our present time. Technology has the power to even stop concussions occurring in our most dangerous sports, like football. Every year, thousands of football players suffer from mild concussions. Concussions occur when the brain moves and collides with the skull. In comparison to the publicly available data on the safety vehicles, organizations have no technology to evaluate the protective performance of football helmets. A new mechanism called the “STAR Evaluation system” was brainstormed and can be used to evaluate helmet performance by detecting player head impact exposure and risk of concussion. STAR stands for Summation of Tests for the Analysis of Risk, the test relates on-field impacted hits to a series of 24 drop tests performed at four different impact locations and six impact energy levels. The test used 62,974 head acceleration data points collected from football players, the number of impacts experienced for one full season was translated to 24 drop test configurations. A new injury risk function was developed from 32 measured concussions and made exposed data to assess risk of concussion for each of the impacts. All the data from the 24 drop tests were combined into one number using the STAR formula that counted the predicted exposure and injury risk for one athlete for an entire full season of practices and games. The STAR evaluation equation gave consumers an important tool to assess the relative performance of football helmets. With that being said this device can key to preventing head injury for all players, even outside the sport of football. Coaches must be very attentive to their players and take notice in the number of impact blows these players receive because with this new technology in effect it will be up to them to monitor and distinguish when a player has been hit one too many times. It’s a coaches job to keep their players safe and to follow the guidelines received from their coaching association. This new device has been tested to its ability and the results speak for themself.
Impacts to the front of the helmet occurred most frequently while recording data, and were followed by impacts to the rear, top, and side of the players helmets. Using these percentages, the number of blows to each player playing in a complete season were computed based on the hypothesis that a total of 1,000 head blows were experienced. This information basically tells you that for a single season, a player will experience an estimated 347 impacts to the front of the helmet, 319 impacts to the rear of the helmet, 171 impacts to the top of the helmet, and 163 impacts to the sides of the helmet. Being that I played football my whole life I can standby these results. Throughout a full season a player goes through a significant amount of hits to the head whether it’s during practice or in a game, the numbers substantially add up.
In addition to the prevention of concussions, this past season the NFL launched an Injury Reduction Plan with the aim to reduce the number of concussions in the upcoming 2018 season. Following a 16 percent increase in concussions during the 2017 season, NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills issued a call-to-action to try and reduce the number of concussions occurring during the season.
Sills stated, “We see our job in player health and safety to have the very best care for our patients as possible. In terms of prevention, in terms of treating and diagnosing injuries, and doing rehabilitation for those injuries. So we can keep our players as safe as possible.”
NFL leaders, clubs and the wide variety of experts in medicine, engineering and science who form the NFL medical committees developed a three point approach to drive behavioral changes. The NFL also created an educational video for players, coaches and club personnel about the concussion reduction strategy, this would inform everyone in the organization the risks and how they are approaching them. Leaders in the 2018 press conference think they have designed what they think are going to be steps that can immediately impact the number of concussions on the football field.
The NFL made 3 categories that will experience change and improvement, they are the following:
The NFL wants their teams to take practices lightly. They don’t want players to hit full contact because it would prevent injury upon players and lower the risk of getting a concussion. Preseason only gets players ready for the regular season. It is not necessarily supposed to be taken serious. Players sometimes find themselves to be performing at very high-rate in the preseason and coaches do not want their players getting hurt and risking their regular season play. Depending on the injury, a player can be out for as long as a whole season, even longer. After getting hurt most players have to go through rehabilitation and build themselves back up to the point where they can play again, if that’s even possible.
Better Performing Helmets
The second part of the Injury Reduction Plan is a goal to get players out of lower-performing helmets and into better-performing helmets in an effort to decrease the risk of injury. Each year, helmets go through official testing by biomechanical engineers hired by the NFL and the NFL Players Association. Their job is to evaluate which helmets best reduce head impact severity. The results of the laboratory tests are displayed on posters and shared with NFL players, club equipment managers, as well as club medical, training and coaching staffs to help inform equipment choices and what’s best to wear. This year based on the results of the study and the opinions of the biomechanical experts involved, the NFL and NFLPA will not allow 10 helmet models from being worn by NFL players. It is important to remember that no helmet can completely protect a player against serious brain or neck injuries a player might sustain while playing football, and that the results of this testing should not be shared or passed down to collegiate, high school, or youth football.
The third component of the Injury Reduction Plan is the enforcement of rules changes aimed at eliminating potentially risky behavior that could lead to injuries. Through the latest changes including the “Use of the Helmet” rule and kickoff modifications, the NFL is leveraging data in an effort to improve player safety and evolve the game. The NFL will not tolerate helmet-to-helmet contacts on players but most importantly the quarterback position. In past years the rule of helmet-to-helmet contact was not strictly enforced and sometimes officials would let the hit “slip.” In our present time these matters are taken very seriously. If a players fails to comprehend and follow the rules he will fined and/or suspended from a game.
In conclusion, the NFL is trying to decrease the amount of concussions their players are experiencing. As previously stated, the STAR equation shows a direct correlation with players receiving direct impacts to their helmets. Depending on the location of the impact, depends on the severity of the concussion. The NFL wants to ensure the safety for their players on and off the field. In turn, that is why they created the three prong approach. Ensuring their players safety allows players to potentially experience a healthier long lasting life.
Rowson, Steven, and Stefan M. Duma. “Development of the STAR Evaluation System for Football Helmets: Integrating Player Head Impact Exposure and Risk of Concussion.” SpringerLink, Springer US, 7 May 2011, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10439-011-0322-5.
“The 2018 Injury Reduction Plan: Initiatives to Advance Player Health and Safety.” NFL Play Smart, Play Safe, http://www.playsmartplaysafe.com/newsroom/videos/2018-injury-reduction-plan-initiatives-advance-player-health-safety/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=search&utm_content=gen-safety&utm_campaign=plan.
Olson, et al. “’We Need to Protect the Brain’: Addressing the Growing Problem of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.” Current Psychiatry, Dowden Health Media, Inc., 1 Mar. 2016, http://www.questia.com/library/journal/1G1-447930732/we-need-to-protect-the-brain-addressing-the-growing.