WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., April 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Each year in the United States, athletes receive 1.6 million to 3.8 million sports-related concussions - problem is, there's scant data and little research on the long-term effects of those injuries.
Using a monitor that fits inside a football helmet, researchers at the Center for Injury Biomechanics are collecting data that measure the severity, location and angle of every hit to the head a football player receives during practice and games.
That data could help helmet manufacturers develop safer products and increase information available to physicians, said Joel Stitzel, Director of the WFU arm of the center, a joint program of Virginia Tech and Wake Forest University.
"It's a matter of training and safety," Stitzel said. "You want to have players doing things on the field that are appropriate to their skill level, so you can lessen their risk for head injury. It's really about protecting athletes."
The long-term risks of concussions in the NFL have received much attention as a growing number of former players are diagnosed with progressive diseases like chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition that causes memory loss, confusion, aggression and depression.
But Stitzel, speaking Wednesday at "Losing to Win: Discussions of Race and Intercollegiate Sports," said study of the impact of concussions must start earlier: For every NFL player, he said, there are 25 college players. And for every college player, there are 25 high school players.
"The trauma could have started much earlier than the professional level," he said. "We should be studying as many people as we can. We need to study lower-level impacts to see how they add up to longer-term conditions."
Virginia Tech, which participated in the development of the Head Impact Telemetry System helmet monitor and first deployed it, has used the device since 2003. Wake Forest began using the helmets this year during spring practice. The University of North Carolina, Dartmouth, Brown and the University of Oklahoma, among others, have also used the helmets.
The center would like to use the system to study high school players, too.
The Head Impact Telemetry System, developed by Simbex and marketed and sold by Riddell, costs $50,000-$60,000 for 50-54 helmets and a base unit to collect the data, Stitzel said.
He said the monitors also could help coaches and trainers make real-time decisions when players receive hits on the field, though it is not a part of the system used now.
"This could be an additional piece of information to help make that decision," Stitzel said. "We do not and cannot use it to make return-to-play decisions or to diagnose conditions, but with more research it may have that capability in the future."
This news release was issued on behalf of Newswise™. For more information, visit http://www.newswise.com.
SOURCE Wake Forest University