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Post Putting the “Tech” in Virginia Tech

Friday April 13, 2007

A pretty cool project going on in Blacksburg: when Beamerball has its players flying around the football field this fall, several players will have helmets outfitted with accelerometers and wireless transmitters to record impact forces. 300,000 of the 1.5 million traumatic brain injuries nationwide each year are to athletes, and football has more of them than any other sport.

Though the system will collect and store the data for research, it will also provide some real-time feedback that can alert team doctors to signs of trouble before a player notices a problem or if a serious impact is missed during the hectic action of a game.

“We have a pager that alerts me when we receive a high head acceleration,” (team physician Dr. Gunnar Brolinson) said. “We set the pager at 98g – an impact of 98 times the force of gravity at the Earth’s surface – . We think that’s a fairly significant head acceleration.”

Brolinson noted that if he’s alerted to such a blow to the head of a player, then he watches the player for signs of a concussion.

One very interesting result so far is the common-sense finding that different positions receive different impacts, and that might lead to additional equipment refinements.

Brolinson said that so far the study of Virginia Tech’s football players has turned up some interesting and useful data, the most notable being that different positions apparently sustain different types of blows.

“Linemen sustain frontal blows. They’re usually low impact blows, but there are lots of them. Wide receivers receive fewer blows, but get higher blows when they happen. Linebackers sustain higher accelerations than linemen.”

Brolinson said that he thinks the data developed by the instrumented helmets may lead to changes in football equipment. “One of the things that may come out of this research, as we start to understand the blows, is position specific helmets. A lineman may need a different helmet from a wide receiver,” he said.

The work should have applications across athletics, in the military, and even in automobile safety.

(HT: Engadget)

Here’s Charles Johnson about to provide a data point to QB Sean Glennon:

Charles Johnson in CFA Bowl
Photo: UGASports.com

2 Responses to 'Putting the “Tech” in Virginia Tech'

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  • This will be interesting to watch, and I hope we get periodic updates on the research. Gods know that the equipment has changed mightily over the years. The basic shapes are the same, but that is about all that is the same. The helmet I wore from 1959 – 1961 wouldn’t be allowed on the field today, and I don’t even like to remember the fiberglass pads we wore.

  • I heard Rutgers is doing a study of Fromunda cheese growth as a result of accelerated jock strap chaffing.