The news that the NFL intend to improve the safety of the game through the preventing, diagnosing and treating of head injuries has certainly come as welcome news to all within the game, with the league set to invest $100 million into both research and technological developments. Such funding surrounds the Play Smart Play Safe initiative, which has seen the introduction of a physician to work alongside team’s medical staff.
The NFL has come under increased scrutiny regarding commitment to player safety following forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu’s identification of chronic traumatic encephalopathy within the brain of former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster back in 2002. Webster committed suicide at the age of 50, and the case of Dave Duerson led to yet more research into the subject. Former Chicago Bears man Duerson also committed suicide, shooting himself in the chest as opposed to his head in order for his brain to be studied. The later post-mortem pointed to CTE.
Despite major technological developments within the game in terms of helmets and other safety measures, back in 2012, more than 2,000 NFL players filed lawsuits regarding 80 concussion related incidents, accusing the NFL of neglecting the link between concussion and brain injuries. The game of Rugby has had similar issues in the past, and with such similarities between the two sports, technological advances in both health monitoring devices and safety equipment is now seemingly an issue that the NFL is looking to tackle head-on. With such advances as biometric data wristbands and gum shield sensors allowing for monitoring of a player’s heart rate, blood pressure and hydration levels, the improvements of helmets and head protectors is surely the next logical step, with more examples of future wearables here. With 80 million sport and fitness related devices predicted to be sold by the end of this year, experts are predicting continued growth over the next 5 years within the wearables sector.
Meanwhile, even in the last few weeks, protests occurred during the NFL season opener between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos, with quarterback Cam Newton receiving several hits to the head without a penalty being called. Aside from the laws of the game, a concussion monitor within the helmet of a player would offer an efficient indication to medical team’s regarding a player’s ability to continue his participation.