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Iowa football players may wear head sensors

[ 0 ] February 14, 2014 |

University of Iowa football players may be donning one more piece of equipment when they lace up their pads in future seasons.

Rather than protecting their bodies from tackles, though, the devices will be used to monitor those big hits that can potentially cause concussions.

Iowa's Damon Bullock is tackled by Michigan State's Max Bullough in an October 2013 game at Kinnick Stadium. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Iowa’s Damon Bullock is tackled by Michigan State’s Max Bullough in an October 2013 game at Kinnick Stadium. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Dr. Andy Peterson of UI’s Sports Medicine Clinic said Thursday that the university intends to partner with a X2 Biosystems, a Seattle-based tech company, to equip Hawkeye football players with a wearable sensor that gauges the impact of hits to the head.

Peterson, speaking at a UI Presidential Committee on Athletics meeting, said UI’s football players will wear a sticker over their skull’s mastoid — located behind their ear — containing an accelerometer that measures the g-forces applied to the head.

According to X2 Biosystem’s website, the small sensors are contained in low-profile adhesive patches that send information to a cloud database accessible to the team’s trainers and physicians on the sidelines. The NFL is using the X2’s concussion management software, according to the company’s website.

Peterson said such sensors are problematic, however, because there’s no measurable threshold of the amount of force needed to cause a consussion.

“There have been literally a dozen studies using instrumented helmets or instrumented mastoid stickers to get an idea of what types of g-forces are necessary to cause a concussion, and they’re all over the map, anywhere from 50 to 150 G’s,” Peterson said.

Peterson doesn’t know when UI’s football program will begin wearing the sensors. And it’s also unclear how team doctors will make use of the data and if it will prove beneficial in monitoring or treating concussions, he said.

“I think a lot of people are going to be collecting a lot of information and not knowing what to do about it — that’s the bad side,” Peterson said. “The good side is a lot of people are going to be collecting a lot of information.”

The topic of the sensors came up during a larger presentation and discussion by the committee on UI’s concussion management and research initiatives. Sports concussions have been a hot-button issue on the national level, particularly in football, where a high-profile lawsuit by former NFL players has put the issue in the spotlight in recent years.

UI Athletics Director Gary Barta said team doctors are doing a better job of diagnosing concussions compared with past decades. In his days of playing football, Barta said he was diagnosed with two concussions, but he suspects he had a few more that went undiagnosed.

“It was just, ‘How many fingers are you holding up?’ … ‘Three.’ … ‘Close enough,’ ” Barta said of his days playing quarterback at North Dakota State in the 1980s.

Concussions aren’t just a football problem, either. Peterson said cheerleading concussions outnumbered those suffered by football players at UI fivefold over last past year — though he noted the Hawkeye football team saw remarkably few concussions this past season.

Other sports with the highest concussion risks are soccer, basketball and wrestling, Peterson said.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

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