company looks to take a bite out of football head injuries

In just a few months, high school students across Pennsylvania and throughout the U.S. will begin training for the start of the football season, lifting weights, running laps and, of course, participating in full-contact drills. Interestingly enough, many of these teams may be armed with a new weapon come the start of the 2014 season.

While this new weapon will neither increase speed, strength or agility, nor improve on-field statistics, it will still perform a vital function: keeping players safe from head injuries.

The weapon in question is a specialized mouth guard designed by the company i1 Biometrics. Unlike traditional mouth guards made of ethylene vinyl acetate, the i1 Biometrics mouth guard is made of a material called Vistamaxx, which provides both better fit and durability for players. However, this is not what sets it apart in terms of player safety.

Believe it or not, the i1 Biometrics mouth guard is equipped with high-tech sensors, as well as both an accelerometer and a gyroscope. Together, these devices record such figures as the force of impact and the degree to which a player’s head twists on a given hit. This information is then transmitted wirelessly to a sideline receiver, alerting coaches when a player has suffered a particularly hard hit and needs to be assessed by medical personnel for a concussion risk.

The mouth guards are then placed into a docking station after practice or games so that their batteries can charge and any remaining information can download. (It is worth noting that the docking stations are equipped with areas for daily sanitization.)

According to i1 Biometrics, the mouth guards are not quite ready for widespread commercial use as more sophisticated methods of eliminating false positives (i.e., players accidently dropping the mouth guards) need to be discovered. To that end, the company has contracted with both Purdue University and the University of South Carolina to have the football teams test the product for the upcoming season.

While this technology is remarkable and could help make football safer for players of all ages, the cost may prove to be an issue — particularly for school districts. Currently, it is priced at $3,000, with each mouth guard costing $150 and lasting for only one season.

What are your thoughts on these mouth guards? Is no amount too high when it comes to safety, or should schools explore cheaper alternatives?

Please visit our website to learn more about traumatic brain injuries.

Source: The Times Herald-Record, “Middies help test high-tech concussion monitor,” William Montgomery, June 8, 2013

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