With concussion awareness spreading, one California high school implements headband sensors that relay information whenever potentially damaging collision occurs.
After testing the technology last academic year, several San Rafael teams will wear Triax Technologies Smart Impact Monitors, beginning in the fall, to monitor and assess head impact during practices and games.
At the foreground of the movement is the Bulldogs' football team, which will be outfitted with the devices on Monday, the first official practice day, and the duration of the season. A couple of football and boys soccer players wore the sensors -- slightly larger than a quarter, nestled in headbands worn underneath players' helmets, last fall. San Rafael is the first school in the Bay Area to adopt the technology.
"Anything we can do to increase safety, I'm all for it," said Ted Cosgriff, San Rafael's first-year football coach. "The two guys on my team who wore it said they never noticed it once the game started."
When any significant force is applied to a player's head, Shana McKeever, San Rafael's head athletic trainer, instantly receives a text message saying which player it was and the linear and rotational forces of the blow. The devices don't prevent injuries, they provide information.
"It tells us the level of contact an athlete is sustaining and whether we have to make adjustments at practice," said Tim Galli, San Rafael's athletic director.
This allows McKeever to pull a player who was struck aside and ask if they're dizzy, have a headache, remember the hit, etc. Immediately treating the blow can lower the potential health risk.
"We want to make sure it's safe for the athlete to return," McKeever said.
The sensors will be worn by the school's soccer, water polo and volleyball teams, based on how many San Rafael can purchase.
"Any sport where there's any kind of significant potential, we want to employ the device," Galli said. "There's no sense putting them on tennis players."
All of the information from the game is logged, so if an athlete tells McKeever he or she has concussion-like symptoms the Monday after a weekend game, she can go back and look.
San Rafael's JV and varsity lacrosse and girls soccer teams wore the headbands in the spring.
"Some athletes didn't care for the headband just because they don't like having something on their head," McKeever said. "But the general consensus was that after a little bit, you don't even notice it's there. It becomes a part of that routine."
Galli said he'd like to see the devices worn by San Rafael wrestlers and even cheerleaders.
The same Triax Technology devices are used in Major League Lacrosse and by Abby Wambach, the decorated women's World-Cup champion.
According to Head Case, a parent-safety resource, 67 percent of concussions in prep sports occur in games. Football sees the most concussions per year, though many studies show soccer is the equivalent on the girls side, with nearly as many. Ice hockey, lacrosse and wrestling follow soccer on the list. Statistics show more prep girls suffer concussions than boys.
Once a high-school player is diagnosed with a concussion, in any sport, he or she must sit out for at least a week.
Galli said contributions to help the school purchase the devices exceeded $5,000 last year. This year's goal is to triple that figure. Donations can be made on the school's website.
"All ADs are always looking for ways to keep their athletes safe," Galli said. "When these kids leave their homes, we have to regard them as our children and do whatever's in their best interest. That means purchasing state-of-the-art protective gear."
While testing the technology last year, no athletes sustained any serious injuries, Galli said.
"Anytime you have useful data and you can look at it and make informed decisions, you're better off at being successful and keeping your athletes as risk-free as possible," Galli said. "Anytime you can reduce risk, I think you want to take a good, hard look at what can do that."
©2015 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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