Football is a high-speed, collision sport. As head-injury and concussion face intense scrutiny from all sides, coaches are left to wonder what can be done to protect their players.
Fortunately, we live in an age when technology can help us solve problems related to head-injury in football.
“i1 Biometrics recognized a need for data collection as well as participation in understanding the head-injury and concussion side of sports,” says Jesse Harper, i1 Biometrics president and CEO. “We were alarmed by what was going on in sports, and so while mouthguards don’t prevent concussions, we thought perhaps we could use the mouthguard form factor to create a better monitoring package for impact data on the field.”
Wearable Technology In Football
The VECTOR mouthguard with ESP technology from i1 Biometrics represents a massive step forward in concussion data capture and remove-from-play testing. The company has an exclusive license with Exxon-Mobil to utilize a polymer called VistaMaxx in the VECTOR.
“VistaMaxx allows us to create a boil-and-bite mouthguard that takes mouthguards to the next level,” says Harper. “On the outside, it gives players the same sort of feel that they’re used to in a mouthguard, but you can’t chew it apart like you can with normal mouthguards.”
The VECTOR is also loaded with sensors. First, it includes a triaxial accelerometer, as one would expect from an impact- sensing technology. But, it also contains a triaxial gyroscope, which measures rotational impact.
“Why is this important?” asks Harper. “Because now we are able to measure impacts on six planes of movement. By adding that gyroscope, it gives us the ability to project a three-dimensional model of the head and know not only how hard a player was hit, but also the magnitude of the impact, where on the head it occurred and which direction it came from.”
On top of that, the VECTOR uses capacitive sensing to turn the mouthguard on when the player puts it in his mouth and turn it off when he takes it out.
“The benefit here is that if an athlete hangs his mouthguard in his helmet or drops it on the ground, the mouthguard isn’t recording any of those impacts that might skew the data,” says Harper.
Information For Coaches
The VECTOR mouthguard will provide a boatload of information for trainers, researchers and scientists trying to learn about head injury. But for coaches, the VECTOR provides unique insight into how individual athletes approach playing the game.
“Sure, trainers can set thresholds so they will understand if a player sustains an impact that warrants a closer look,” says Harper. “But for coaches, the real value comes from what we call ‘post analytics.’”
Harper says that after players wear the VECTOR in practice and game situations, coaches will begin to recognize tendencies. Because the mouthguard tracks impacts, coaches can see from the data that their running back may be dropping his head to open the door through the offensive line.
“That is something that, as a coach, you can now modify by adjusting hitting and tackling drills,” says Harper. “This is just one example of how coaches can begin to use data to keep players safe.”
In addition, the software that comes with the VECTOR mouthguard is quite simple to use. Coaches are trying to win games, says Harper. They don’t want to be deciphering data on the sidelines.
“All that coaches see on the computer is a player’s number, the player’s name and where on the head the impact took place,” he says. “The mouthguard is recording and sending all kinds of data, but it was highly important that we made it very, very simple. Anyone who can operate a phone can operate this system.”