Football isn’t a subject you often in find in National Geographic, so when the famous scientific magazine wrote about the game, it’s worth taking note.
National Geographic delved into the concussion issue Saturday and examined how the NFL is using technology to combat concussions.
It’s why Sunday’s game will include cameras in the media box devoted to helping team trainers and physicians spot unusual behavior in players that suggests they may have suffered a head injury.
“Imagine how controversial this would have been before,” said Richard Ellenbogen, co-chairman of the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee, referring to the camera scheme. “The opposing team would have thought the other team was looking at their plays — but now the film is purely for safety.”
Players’ willingness to suffer those cameras is a sign of just how concerned they’ve become about head injuries in recent years.
Beyond the cameras to watch for concussions, the NatGeo article looked at how various researchers and companies are trying to build a better helmet — and a partnership that has involved the U.S. military.
A couple of years ago, the NFL and other sports leagues gathered in New York with members of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to discuss protective technology. The exchange of information between the NFL and the military continues to this day.
Accurate sensors that measure impacts in real time would be a big advancement in head-trauma protection, said Lt. Col. Frank Lozano, the U.S. Army’s product manager for soldier protective equipment.
Already the Army has tens of thousands of sensors placed in the crown of certain soldiers’ helmets to measure the forces exerted on their heads. “It comes down to understanding the transfer of energy through a helmet and into the head,” Lozano said.
Ellenbogen said the idea of cameras aimed at players has grabbed the attention of other sporting groups.
At a concussion conference in Zurich last year, Ellenbogen said, officials from soccer’s international ruling body, FIFA, were fascinated with the idea of using cameras in the media box to focus on players from different angles and help athletic trainers spot anything unusual.
The video also can be fed to team physicians on the field, who will be carrying iPads for the first time at a Super Bowl. The device allows them to record and time players’ responses to a sideline concussion test that covers areas like memory, concentration and balance.
– Bill Bradley, contributing editor