The North Georgia Youth Football Association is taking strides toward making the sport safer for kids.
The league, which caters to approximately 3,000 players and 17 counties in this part of the state, is encouraging its teams to begin using a helmet sensor on a voluntary basis this fall. The device is designed to help identify hits in which the risk of a head injury is highest.
The product marketed by Brain Sentry, called the Impact Counter Plus, adheres to the back of helmets for players from age 5 through seventh grade, which comprise the full range of 165 teams and 27 high school feeder programs in the NGYFA.
The NGYFA became the first in the nation to join with Brain Sentry for this risk-reduction partnership when a deal was finalized in the spring with league commissioner Colt Green.
However, local associations including the Gwinnett Football League and Georgia Middle School Athletic Association have since picked up the device, which is about the size of a stick of gum and attaches to the base on the back of a helmet.
“This is kind of ground-breaking technology and we’re going to serve as the guinea pig,” Green said. “We think this could have a major impact in promoting player safety.”
With a cost of $55 per device, Green said use among league members is strictly on a volunteer basis, but estimates probably 10 percent of players will have one on their helmet this season. The device, about a 1/2-inch thick and three inches wide, has a sensor that flashes a bright red light if a player registers a hit of 80g force, or higher.
By comparison, the force of a hit from a professional boxers fist would register about 52 g’s.
Even though a hit that makes the Impact Counter Plus light — about the same size as a pencil eraser — flash does not necessarily mean a player has sustained a concussion, research shows that a hit of this magnitude does raise the likelihood that a player has experienced a head injury, according to Brain Sentry director of sales Mike Edison.
In addition to the new technology, coaches will continue to watch for other traditional signs of a concussion, which include dizziness, confusion, blurred vision and nausea.
“We want to be clear that it doesn’t diagnose a concussion, but it does tell you when a player has sustained a hit hard enough where their chances of experiencing a concussion go up dramatically,” Edison said.
The Impact Counter Plus by Brain Sentry is also used by select schools in the NCAA and the Arena Football League.
Edison said the Impact Counter Plus is also beneficial because it records the number of hits to the head a player has taken. If one player registers an abnormally high number, it could be a sign to instruct that player again how to tackle safely.
Green hopes that the response to the new product to promote player safety is positive enough that it becomes more wide spread in 2015.
“This is going to show us who’s sustained a heavy blow and needs to be evaluated for a concussion,” Green said.