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university of north carolina sets standard for head injury protection in football

Over the last few weeks I have posted on the dilemma facing coaches and parents about the risks associated with the game of football. I am talking of course about the continuing dialogue across the country concerning whether or not the game of football needs significant change when it comes to how players tackle and block. Just yesterday we watched an Indianapolis Colt taken off the field on a stretcher with a head injury. My last post examined the football helmet industry who have not made any significant changes in helmet design in over 30 years. Every athletic director, coach and trainer who has been interviewed agree on one thing - football is not played the same way today as it was 30 years ago. Kids are bigger, stronger and use different techniques which make them more likely to get hurt. The University of North Carolina has been using a new type of technology installed into helmets for the last 6 years. The system is called HIT, which stands for Head Impact Telemetry. Yes, a computer inside the helmet which registers the amount of acceleration taking place during impact. The New York Times click here reported this weekend on the Tar Heels success with this program. The helmet measures the forces and location of every hit which can then be analyzed and used to train players how not to hit. Trainers sit down with players at UNC and go over the data. They can tell when kids drop their heads before impact and teach them how to avoid these kinds of hits. Part of the problem is that players have very little live contact practice before games in order to avoid injury. Kind of dumb - if players are hitting so hard during practice that there is fear of injury then someone needs to analyze why this is happening. It was reported that impacts to the heads of players can be equivalent to a car hitting a brick wall at 35 mph. Now here's the bad part. This system cost about $1000 per helmet which makes it prohibitive for many schools. But, it does show that the ball can be advanced and making this sport safer for our kids can happen.  I say "cudos" to the Tar Heels and "in your face" to the helmet industry, who last week reported they were afraid of making helmets safer for fear of law suits. Maybe a good shot to their corporate heads will wake them up. Dennis F Feeley      

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