Sure, football is a grind: the two-a-days in relentless heat, the bruises of battle on the gridiron, the exhaustion at the end of each practice and game. But the rewards of all that agony — valuable lessons in teamwork, accountability and work ethic.
To that end, Manatee Football has invested in a state of the art “smart” program that we believe will help keep football alive: Beginning this spring, Manatee players will be equipped with Riddell helmets that monitor the severity of hits and potential concussion risk. The move is meant to combat declining participation in football in the wake of rising awareness of the damage repeated concussions can cause to the brain. There are so many benefits to monitoring ongoing physical activity in practice and in game real time.
“One of the big things, selfishly, as a coach, we’ve got to increase participation. We’ve got to figure out how to do that. What’s the biggest question we all get asked as coaches? Concussions. What are we doing to protect our kids?”
In recent years, football has taken a hit in participation in most parts of the country. From 2012 to 2017, the number of children participating in tackle football has considerably dropped. The decline can be largely attributed to growing awareness of brain injuries and published studies spotlighting the danger of concussions. According to recent research by Northwestern University, the number of diagnosed concussions among football players in the United States doubled between 2005 and 2015.
That spike is thought by researchers to be due to laws enacted by all 50 states in 2010 that set guidelines for when to remove an athlete from play after a suspected head injury and when those athletes are allowed to return to action. That legislation added to increasing awareness — and perhaps heightened fear — of concussions in football.
Manatee Finds Innovation
Head Coach Yusuf Shakir believes he has found that better equipment: Riddell SpeedFlex helmets with InSite Training Tool, billed by the Illinois-based sports equipment company as state-of-the-art protection for football players. A five-zone sensor pad embedded in the interior of the helmets collects data from each practice and game, and that data is displayed on an online interactive platform, allowing coaches to view the severity of hits. Coaches will have impact monitors that alert them in real time if a hit could be considered dangerous.
This technology takes coaching to a different level, Shakir said. After all, it is one thing for blocks and tackles to be observed during action, Shakir said, but football becomes a different ballgame when the actual impact — and potential repercussion — of those hits can be almost instantly monitored and analyzed.
The system, according to Riddell — one of the most prominent manufacturers of football helmets at any level, including the NFL — “analyzes each profile to identify training opportunities that may decrease head impact exposure.”
“It’s never bad to have more information.”
Nationwide, more than 30,000 players in more than 1,000 programs, including 100 collegiate programs, will be outfitted in Riddell’s InSite technology, which was made available to the public in 2014 and, based on coaches’ feedback to the company, has become one of the more reliable resources in football, according to Devin Hamrick, associate business and marketing manager for Riddell IQ, the company’s “smart helmet” division.
“You want accurate and valid data,” said Hamrick. “The way the InSite sensor system is designed, there has to be an impact for (hits) to be recorded. With some other technologies, oftentimes helmet movement can be recorded as impact based on how systems record their data. Ours, you can’t have a false positive because the way our sensor works, it has to have an impact being sensed to spit out a data point.”
The purpose of the technology, Hamrick continued, is to allow coaches to adjust drills and training to minimize head injuries and help football adapt to a world of concussion concerns. If the game did not adapt, he said, “they would have kept doing things the way they’ve always done it. It’s hard to progress if we don’t evolve.”
Recently, Manatee Football has also joined the Catapult family with the PlayerTek technology, which is a revolutionary GPS athlete monitoring system that helps Football teams make informed decisions to improve athlete performance. With the combination of these tools Hurricane student athletes won’t just be “smart” in the classroom, but now on the gridiron. Check back for more on PlayerTek. Go Canes!