By Steven Davis
SportTechie

Concussions have become a hot topic in sports today, especially with football. These brain injuries cause serious short-term and long-term damage, so teams and leagues are taking safety precautions to prevent concussions and be more informed about this issue. An interesting fact is that after a player suffers his first concussion, he's 1-2 times more likely to receive a second one. On his second concussion, he's 2-3 times more likely to suffer a third. And after a third concussion, a player is 3-9 times more likely to sustain a fourth.

So how does an athlete or training staff know when a player has a concussion? Usually when players take a big hit to the head and are wobbly, a team of trainers will put them through a series of tests to determine whether there is a concussion.

But most of the time, athletes say they are fine. They don't feel the effects right away so they continue to play, which risks injury to the brain even further. To address this problem, Reebok developed a skullcap that has a unique sensor to determine the amount of impact on a player's head. Named the "Checklight," this smart cap uses a light system that indicates the severity of the hit.

There is a light panel on the side as well as another that hangs in the back that flashes a yellow light for a moderate hit and a red light for a severe hit. The cap can fit inside the players' helmet and the light along the back is visual so that other players and athletic staff can see that it is on and possibly pull the player out of the game. It does this by measuring the G-force of a hit using an accelerometer. While the device does not diagnose or prevent a concussion, it does provide some indication on the amount of impact being taken on by an athlete and tracks each one.

Some of the benefits of the Checklight include:

  • Consistent, reliable and actionable impact data
  • Sensors that are directly coupled to the head (not a helmet or chin strapt) to reflect direct accelerations that the head expereiences
  • Can be worn with and without a helmet in multiple activities and sports
  • Easy to use and comfortable to wear
  • Logs the total number of Impacts recorded

Even though football seems to be the obvious sport for the Checklight, this type of product could be used in any sport where head trauma may occur. Some professional athletes like Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck use the product, but it could be particularly valuable for youth athletes because of different resources.

"I don't feel like the need is as strong at the NFL because you have so many people looking and watching and observing," Hasselbeck said. "But I've got kids who are playing football this year where it's not a business. One thing I say to parents is that you can’t see every play. Even though there’s a coach out there, they’re not watching your kid every single play. The Checklight is an extra set of eyes for you on your child. The lights are in a spot where anyone can see it."

As concussions continue, you can expect technology like the Checklight to evolve. Being notified of a potential head injury is the first step to improving player safety and this device takes the reporting of a potential concussion out of the hands of the athlete. The Reebok Checklight is available for coaches, parents and players on Team Express for $149.99.

Of course, as is often the case with emerging technology, there may be unintended consequences. We just hope that mischievous youngsters don't view the light on an opponent as a challenge: I'm going to hit that kid so hard the red light will come on. It would give new meaning to the phrase "lighting someone up."

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