NFL Says No To Helmet Sensors in 2015

Proper Youth Football Tackling Technique

The NFL has made a disappointing decision to not use helmet sensors in 2015. Helmet, pad and other wearable sensors allow for collecting valuable information instrumental in making the game of football safer. Furthermore, helmet sensors allow for team transparency- wouldn’t the NFL be interested to know which teams have the most illegal hits?  The reported reason for not using sensors is vague, simply stating the data gathered from earlier tests were unreliable. This is a decision that adversely effects the progress of football safety, at all levels.

If functional, a helmet sensor is a device that is immediately necessary.  Technology can empower and ingenuity can change the way we live our lives.  Several months ago I had the opportunity to see former New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason speak at a tech conference. Steve has ALS, a rare progressive neurodegenerative disease that severely weakens all of his muscles to the point he can no longer use them. While he is now unable to speak with words coming from his mouth, he is able to form words with an innovative technology by Microsoft. With Steve’s synchronized blinking and eye movements, series of words are formed and translated using speech software. It’s this new-aged blink recognition method that allows Steve to regain his ability to communicate. Yes, technology is undoubtedly amazing.

Potential data that can be collected from helmet sensors:

  • Sensors may help coaches single out those athletes tackling improperly, triggering coaches corrective action.
  • Sensors may help to quantify blows to the head.
  • Sensors may identify unique points on the helmet where hits may be the most destructive.
  • Other data points of interests can be collected such as temperature inside protective gear, breathing consistency and other.

With the current helmet sensors available in the market- we are not concerned with 100 percent accuracy, some data is better than none. These helmet sensors may tell a story that the NFL players union may not be ready to broadcast to the world. If that is the case then shame on them. Pressure will mount in 2016 to use sensors, hopefully then the NFL will improve their level of priority on football safety.

For football safety we understand three points to be true:

  1. Coaches should seek to drastically eliminate the practice of improper tackling/leading with the crown of the helmet at the high school, college and professional levels. At the youth football, head injuries are extremely rare (with proper coaching). Coaches must know how to teach proper tackling technique and how to execute proper tackling drills.  Any sport can get kids injured if it’s coached improperly. 
  2. Leagues must evolve with the times and implement rule changes to make football a safer game.
  3. Technology should continue to improve football safety. Collisions will occur in football, equipment manufacturers must strive to produce the safest gear possible.

On-field data will help with safety efforts. Join the conversation, on our social channels or comment below.

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