Public AffairsTechnology & Science / January 13, 2014

Head Injuries Focus of Convention

Sam Klemet
Head Injuries Focus of Convention

The Colts season is over, but football is still the center of attention this week in Indianapolis.

Six thousand coaches are attending a conference here to discuss technology aimed at reducing and preventing concussions.

The National American Football Coaches Association Convention kicked off Sunday at the Indiana Convention Center downtown.

"Figuring out which players need to be assessed for concussions is a big problem," said Brain Sentry Inc CEO Greg Merril.  "A big part of that problem is that we are so dependent on self-reporting of symptoms."

The focus is on head injuries, including using helmet sensors to identify players who need to be assessed.

Merril thinks technology needs to be more proactive. 

"We developed an accelerometer based sensor which weighs just one ounce and it sticks to the back of a football, hockey, or lacrosse helmet," he said.  "It looks for acceleration events of the head which could be potentially dangerous and therefore if a player experiences that kind of acceleration of the head, should be checked out."

Several thousand youth, high school and college athletes are using the sensors in football, hockey and lacrosse.

Merril says the goal is to better educate people on concussions signs and symptoms.

"One of the concerns and misconceptions with concussions is that players get knocked out, have to be knocked out to have a concussion," he said. "The reality is that only five percent of concussions result in loss of consciousness.  So that's one of the big challenges.  Just because you are not knocked out, doesn't mean you don't have a concussion."

Some concussions take time to identify.

"Sometimes the symptoms, including headache, blurred vision, balance issues, won't emerge for a day, two days, sometimes three days or more after the impact event. So, it becomes very tricky sometimes to find out who has the concussion."

He says in the future, sensors will be put in headbands for non-helmet sports.