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Football is inherently a rough game. Even when coaches and players take every necessary precaution, there is still a very high risk of injury. Bruises and concussions are commonplace, with more serious injuries always potentially around the corner.
Those involved in implementing safety measures at every level of the game have realized this, and have taken several steps to make “America’s game” safer, and to protect all involved. From your kids in peewee football, to millionaires in the National Football League, medical professionals have been hard at work developing several things aimed at lowering the risk of injury, from newer and safer helmets, to fostering greater awareness of concussions and everything in between.
Data tracking hardware
But what about tracking data over the course of the game itself, and potentially defining the link between certain plays and potential injuries as they occur in real time? This is already being explored in at least two cases: Wearable data trackers installed in player uniforms, as well as the development of a high-tech mouthguard that is able to detect the magnitude of hard hits in real time.
According to On Wisconsin, the alumni website and magazine of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the school is partnering with the NFL to build the mouthguard, which transmits data during the game about impact speed, location, force, severity and direction of the impact.
According to the article, data from the mouthguard would be used by both the Wisconsin football team, as well as the NFL Players Union (NFLPA) and their engineering consultants to continuously improve player safety.
Data tracking algorithms: The future of high school football?
In addition to the mouthguard sensor, many NFL teams have also enlisted the help of Catapult, an Australian based company that specializes in athletic data tracking. In a Wired article from January 2016, teams follow Catapult-based algorithms that are calculated by hardware within the clothing the NFL players wear. These algorithms measure player heart rate, direction and speed, but not much else at the moment. As time goes on and technology improves, it’s expected that more teams in the NFL will use this technology.
While it remains to be seen if this technology will one day be in widespread use by high school football teams, these are two ways data tracking is being used to monitor and enhance player safety. American Football is a game that has been enjoyed by young and old alike since the late 1860’s. As technology advances, it will provide more opportunities for a younger crowd to enjoy a game loved by many, without fear of serious injury.