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NFL, Army partner on helmet sensors

by Mike Hoffman on July 24, 2012

NFL football players will wear the same sensors this season inside their helmets that U.S. soldiers have worn in Afghanistan to measure concussions.

The sensors measure the blasts sustained by soldiers from improvised explosive device (IED)  blasts in combat and then survey the soldiers to see if they suffered a concussion. Army officials say they have gotten 10,000 of the planned 45,000 helmet sensors into Army helmets in Afghanistan since the program started in  November.

NFL and Army leaders have worked together for awhile now to combat concussions and traumatic brain injuries that have plagued  both soldiers and football players. Army Rapid Equipping Force Commander Col. Peter Newell pushed to get the sensors into combat quickly realizing the Army’s time in Afghanistan was ending and the service was missing a prime chance to collect data on concussions.

The sensors the Army use help tell commanders if a soldier likely suffered a concussion with a red, yellow or green light. A red light means a soldier should receive rest and not be pushed back into combat. Race car drivers wear similar sensors.

Frank Lozano, product manager of Soldier protection with Program Executive Office Soldier, said the most important part of the process is screening soldiers before they are hit by a blast. Scientists then have a base line to tell how the brain was affected. NFL players will be screened the same way to understand how a hit from a linebacker or safety jars their brains.

“Combat is inherently a traumatic event, and there’s very little way to avoid that. But what we want to be able to do is immediately understand if those traumatic events have been realized or manifested in the state of a concussion. And if that has occurred, then we want to allow the soldier the right amount of time to heal,” Lozano said in an Army statement.

Army officials cautioned that they don’t expect to make any ground breaking discoveries until they have more time to collect data from soldiers. With that information Army doctors hope to improve the way they identify and treat concussions and thus reduce the number of traumatic brain injuries.

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