Football team draws national attention for high tech helmets

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Pictured above: SI Athletic Director John Mulkerrins ’89 with the new helmet sensors by Riddell.

The first practice of the SI varsity football team drew the attention of national press not because of its recent success but as a result of the school’s cutting-edge commitment to player safety.

The school purchased 180 InSite Impact Response System units from Riddell, the makers of the Speed helmets worn by the athletes, to measure impact and alert sideline staff to hits that may put the players at risk.

Though other Bay Area high schools have purchased a handful of these sensor units for some members of their first string varsity athletes, SI is by far the largest user of this new device in Northern California and has outfitted each member of the freshman, JV and varsity squads with sensor.

SI’s commitment to safety drew the attention of CNBC, which brought a film crew to the school Aug. 16 for the first team practice. The show aired four days later on Street Signs in a segment dedicated to wearable high-tech.

Neither the helmets nor the five-point sensors prevent concussions, but by measuring impact, they alert trainers to the possibility of injury. “The new technology fits into what we value in our program,” said head coach John Regalia ’93. “We teach safe ways to allow our athletes to compete at the highest level, and these sensors allow our staff to evaluate players and their status in what is a physical game. We are excited to continue to take steps to be safe in a highly competitive program while also providing the very best experience for our athletes and families.”

InSite was developed based on Riddell’s Head Impact Telemetry System and Sideline Response System, a technology that has analyzed more than 2 million impacts since 2003. This new technology fits into the liner of a Riddell helmet and sends signals wirelessly to handheld devices on the field, where trainers can see if athletes have suffered significant or atypical head impacts during games or practices.

Thanks to advances in design and less expensive components, Riddell was able to develop a more accessible version of the sensor than the ones used years ago by college athletes, and the company recently introduced them to high school and youth programs.

In the past, trainers Marla Bottner and Rob Assadurian and coaches depended on students to report symptoms they were experiencing that might be the result of concussions. Some students over the years were reluctant to report symptoms, especially before big games, or didn’t think the symptoms warranted reporting.

“With the new InSite sensors, we now have metrics that amount to eyes inside the helmet,” said Athletic Director John Mulkerrins ’89. “Those sensors measure a significant single impact or multiple impacts during a game or practice.”

Both Bottner and Mulkerrins stressed that the sensors are not a substitute for doctors and trainers nor can they prevent or diagnose concussions. “The sensor is another tool that we are using as we work with our team physician on our concussion assessment protocols,” said Bottner.

Erin Griffin, a senior communications manager with Riddell, praised SI, noting that it “has become a leader among the nation’s high schools first by using the Speed helmet and then by taking things a step further with a significant investment into the InSite sensors. It speaks volumes about how much SI values protecting its players.”

As part of the school’s commitment to safety, SI will host several experts for a brain seminar on Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. in the Carlin Commons, open to all parents and students. Speakers will include both Darren Cde Baca ’78 and his son, Brett ’10, who suffered severe concussions while playing football at Trinity College. Both men have appeared on the Today Show to speak about the dangers of concussions, and they have also started the One Hit Away Foundation to showcase treatment options.

Also speaking will be Dr. Daniel Amen of the Amen Clinics, who will discuss brain injuries and the importance of nutrition in the healing process.

 

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