HITS has already indicated that one Unity football player this season was using the top of his helmet to tackle, a dangerous practice that could lead to spinal cord injuries. The heads up, so to speak, gave his coaches the opportunity to correct this bad habit before it caused damage, Broglio says. Unity football head coach Scott Hamilton says he is pleased with system, adding, "Anything to protect our kids is a wonderful concept."
Of the 1.2 million high school football players in the U.S., as many as 5.6 percent experience a concussion during the season, according to research by Kevin Guskiewicz, chairman of U.N.C.'s Department of Exercise and Sport Science. He also found that players who sustained one concussion in a season were three times more likely than uninjured players to sustain another in the same season.
Guskiewicz has also studied the impact of concussions on former National Football League players. Earlier this year, he reported: of the 2,552 retired NFL players he studied, the 595 with a history of three or more concussions were 20 percent more likely to develop clinical depression than those who had not suffered a concussion. The study also linked traumatic brain injury with the onset of neurodegenerative disorders, including mild cognitive impairment as well as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.
The NFL, which criticized the size of Guskiewicz's research sample, has indicated that 98 g's is the typical minimum force at which an impact will cause a concussion, but "we've found that concussions also happen at higher and lower impacts," Broglio says.
Broglio is in discussions with Hamilton to continue his research at Unity next season and also hopes to sign up other high schools to test the helmets. Only then, he says, will he be able to determine whether HITS or some similar technology should be standard issue for athletes in contact sports.