As we drink our Tuesday beverages, nurse our “football” hangovers, and gather around the water cooler, the bigger conversation we may be having about football will span from the wins (can you believe the Chiefs are 7-0?) to the disappointments (really Vikings and Giants? What a sloppy game). Then, the conversation often parlays into players who stood out (did you hear the roar of the stadium as Peyton Manning was announced in Indianapolis?) and those who were injured (wow the Eagles are having a tough season with injured QBs).
And speaking of injuries, the recurring injury plaguing the NFL is the good old concussion and you can’t leave a football conversation without this entering the discussion…and this week in football was no different.
Nick Foles, the Philadelphia Eagles back up quarterback taking Michael Vicks’ starting spot (since he is out with a hamstring pull), was injured in a second quarter play that lead to blow to the head and was later diagnosed as a concussion, as announced by via the Eagles official Twitter account. The tweet also mentioned that due to the league’s new protocol regarding player concussions, Foles will be following the strict assessment and his date of return is unknown at this time.
The new concussion protocol was put in place as a response to the ongoing concerns about concussed players and the potential adverse health effects, and teams must take it seriously when faced with this injury. This is due to the league wanting to protect players’ health, but also because of the offseason lawsuit that caused the NFL to rethink injury protocols.
On August 29, the class action lawsuit which accused the NFL of “hiding known risks of concussions for decades to return players to games and protect its image,” and filed on behalf of more than 4200 football players, came to a settlement. The settlement included a pay out of about $765 million in medical expenses, brain injury-related compensation, and medical research, although the NFL didn’t announce any wrongdoing.
This debate could go on for ages, but what’s more important, is the new technology that is trying to make this concussion protocol more accurate and easier for teams to implement so the NFL can encourage team and player compliance…to ultimately protect players’ short and long-term health.
Right now, the protocol includes a series of tests and while these carefully crafted exercises and measurement do have a way of preventing “cheating” in the cognitive testing, players who are worried about pay and position will always try to trump the system.
One company, i1 Biometrics has created an impact detecting mouthguard that uses “embedded microscopic technologies that accurately measure the impacts and accelerations a players brain experiences during play.” The device transmits data to a cloud-based software system and provides alerts and notifications via mobile devices. This device can stay with a player and provide accurate and useful historical data, providing a full scope of a player’s health based on injuries obtained when using the device. This is basically a digital health record that can be used to ensure a players safety is top of mind, and to review processes for players based on the number of historical head injuries and the intensity.
The bottom-line is that this technology allows for complete athlete assessment and a deeper understanding of injuries – through real-time and historical data – something that can change the way we look at injuries and care.
Although this one device is not the end all solution to monitoring head injuries, it is a step in the right direction of using technology to provide an accurate assessment of an injury and a way for players to accept and the league to support a concussion protocol that is closer to science than subjective testing. There is still a long way to go, but at least we are a few steps closer…