The Lakewood Spartans will take the field Friday night wearing one more layer of safety equipment that fans won’t even know is there. Eleven players will have ShockBox concussion sensors installed in their helmets to help trainers monitor dangerous hits on the field.
“The sensors will allow to get a sense for the impact the athlete is receiving,” said Lakewood athletic trainer Erika Miller. “If we may not have seen that actual hit, it will generate a signal to the cell phone to be able to identify the athlete that’s gotten hit and go ahead and assess them.”
Each sensor costs $178 but the ones Lakewood is using were given to the school to use for free on an experimental basis. The sensors are installed under the interior padding near the crown of the helmet. When a player suffers a hit hard enough to detect, the sensors alert Miller on the sidelines. The devices are set to detect impact for 50 Gs of force and up.
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“Our goal is that hopefully the sensors are not going off. The cell phone is not going off so that we can identify what types of hits are causing these concussions but we don’t want to see these types of injuries continue,” said Miller.
Trainers will take the contact and collision information the device transmits to their phone and diagnose the problem. All players who receive and give a hit that registers on the sensor will be evaluated on the sideline.
“The game is very, very, very aggressive, very violent,” said Lakewood head coach Cory Moore, who played two seasons in the National Football League. “Ultimately, the kids being safe and being protected should be paramount.”
One of Lakewood’s star players is senior running back Tyriek Hopkins. He suffered a concussion last season and is one of the 11 players with the sensor installed in his helmet this year.
“I don’t want to have any brain problems or stay in the game when I do have a concussion and make this worse,” he said. “It could save my life at some point.”
Miller and Moore discussed which players and positions were most susceptible to concussions and chose those players to wear the sensors. The ShockBox sensor is lightweight and shorter than a standard pen. It fits inside the helmet with Velcro and players don’t feel it at all.
Lakewood has used the sensors in practice all week and Friday night’s game against Dunedin will be the first time the Spartans will wear the sensors in a game. Concussions are a problem that has risen at the high school level and trainers are excited to use the product.
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“They’re a pretty big issue. We see a lot more attention coming to concussions right now,” said Miller. “We’re constantly monitoring the field watching guys getting hit, watching for those types of impact, looking for any injury that could occur but especially concussions.”
According to a recent study:
— 400,000 brain injuries (concussions) occurred in high school athletics during the 2008-09 school year.
— 15.8% of football players who sustain a concussion severe enough to cause loss of consciousness return to play the same day.
— Emergency department visits for concussions sustained during organized team sports doubled among 8- to 13-year-olds between 1997 and 2007 and nearly tripled among older youth.
— Concussion rates more than doubled among students aged 8 to 19 participating in sports like basketball, soccer and football between 1997-2007, even as participation in those sports declined.
— A 2011 study of U.S. high schools with at least one athletic trainer on staff found that concussions accounted for nearly 15% of all sports related injuries reported to athletic trainers.
— High school athletes who have been concussed are three times more likely to suffer another concussion in the same season.
ShockBox offers sensors for a variety of sports including football, hockey and lacrosse.