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Concussion Prevention and Equipment Technology in Sports

We look at how technology is helping prevent concussions

1Nov

The discussion on concussions in amateur and professional sports is a serious yet sensitive topic and at the same time likely to continue for years to come. Last week’s tentative agreement between the NFL and 4,500 NFL retired players in which a federal court judge announced a $765 million settlement (ESPN.com) is evidence enough. As a father of two young boys who are beginning to consider participating in youth sports, I’m not sure if I will allow them to play a physical sport like football, soccer, wrestling, boxing, basketball, baseball or ice-hockey. Call me naïve, cautious, whatever. Maybe I should just say, “no contact sports boys?!” Okay, seriously as a sports enthusiast, former athlete and youth tournament/clinic producer, contact sports have been and will always be a part of my life. I will allow my six and four year old to play whatever sport they fancy. Well, probably not football until junior high school. Nevertheless, the topic of concussion prevention and equipment technology in sports hits home.

I’m teaching a college athletic coaching course this fall trimester in North Miami, Florida at the prestigious Johnson & Wales University under the Sports, Entertainment & Event Management program. (Selfless plug) I have invested time looking into technological advancements and current patents to advise my students and family on what is out there to protect and prevent our youth from serious and life threatening sports injuries.

Conduct a web search and you will find the plethora of patents under this topic including impact shock absorbing material, mouth guards for monitoring body dynamics, bean proof caps for baseball, helmet impact sensing devices, helmet protective padding and the list goes on.

The AAN (America Academy of Neurology) is doing their part by developing and offering a FREE “Concussion Quick Check” app that works with your iPhone, iPad (Apple) or Android device. This is good for coaches and parents with youth or teens who participate in recreational physical activity or sports in general. Should your child or athlete encounter head trauma you will be able to recognize some of the common signs. I included a screen shot below and downloaded the app for myself.

Note: You will need to download or update your smart phone with the latest version of iOS 6 (Apple) or you will not be able to download this app.

In the NBA (National Basketball Association) a so called non-contact sport with a lot of contact, it’s been widely reported that several players use some form of protective compression apparel under their uniform. The NBA is okay with it as long as it’s not visible due to their exclusive uniform agreement with Adidas. As a former NBA team employee I can recall when 3-time NBA champion Dwayne Wade started using compression shorts, V-neck protective chest vests and he’s since added the elbow and knee pads protecting all of his various ailments. “D-Wade” as Heat and NBA fans call him is known for driving to the basket in a fearless manner among the giants, absorbing contact and making some seriously acrobatic shots while frequently landing hard on the floor. It’s no surprise that he would be advised by longtime Miami Heat trainer Ron Culp to utilize the compression apparel gear and technology.

According to a study by Michael Hamlin, Ph. D., an exercise physiologist the pressure placed on muscle tissue by compression clothing reduces inflammation and causes reflexive dilation of the small blood vessels, which improves blood flow to the heart. Increased blood flow brings more oxygen to your muscles in the form of fresh blood, which helps speed recovery, Hamlin says. Now that we know what it does, who are the innovators behind this apparel and technology?

McDavid Inc., designs and markets sports protection and apparel for active people and athletes. Storelli is a sport brand that values the protection of athletes’ bodies and aspirations according to their website and is making strides with protective gear in the sport of soccer.

So needless to say the technology is and will continue to be developed and enhanced. The bottom line is that there still is not a conclusive study or research available to show that there is equipment and technology to truly prevent concussions. The technology and equipment is really only proven to assist in preventing severe head injury including skull fractures and additional trauma to the head as tested on mechanical dummies. So parents and coaches please be leery of any individual or company claiming their product prevents concussions or serious injuries in recreational activities or contact sports.

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