Health Team

Technology making football safer for athletes

Concussions will always be a risk for football players, but technology and some rule changes are making the game safer.

Posted Updated

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The Super Bowl is this weekend, and you can bet there will be many hard hits on the field.

Hard hits, especially to the head, might leave life-long impairments.

Concussions will always be a risk for players, but technology and some rule changes are making the game safer.

Since 2004, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz has been leading a concussion study on players wearing helmets that have sensors that measure the location and magnitude of a hit.

The high-impact hits are easier for team trainers and medical personnel to evaluate.

Mark Thomas, a talk show host on 99.9 FM The Fan ESPN Radio, remembers a few concussions from his playing days at North Carolina State University and in the National Football League.

"It didn't knock me out, but I was very woozy, and they had to carry me off (the field)," he said.

He bounced back from some lesser hits even though he did not feel quite right.

"But you don't really shake it off," he said. "You felt a little nauseous. You felt a little woozy."

Doctors are concerned that, when the brain has not fully healed from one concussion, a second impact places an individual at higher risk of long-term damage.

Newer helmets are larger, lighter, have more padding and do a better job of protecting the chin. But equipment alone will never prevent all concussions.

"Football's a collision sport, and we just need to think about how we make it safer," Guskiewicz said.

Guskiewicz believes the sensor technology can help make it safer, but for now, only a few colleges and high schools use it.

"Hopefully, in time, the NFL will see the value in it," he said.



Allen Mask, M.D., Reporter
Rick Armstrong, Photographer

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