The National Football League (NFL) is moving forward with the development of helmet sensors. These devices might be able to measure the impact of a helmet hit, determine whether a player should be taken out of a game, and help coaches eliminate dangerous plays.
This is a joint project between the NFL and NFL Players Association. A pilot project was started in 2013 to test current technology and ascertain what works best for determining head impact. Two companies are building the sensors – entitled “Head Accelerometer Devices” — which are positioned at strike points around the helmet to assess the frequency, exact location and magnitude of a hit.
And while researchers are still learning how to interpret their findings, the goal is to have a finalized version for the upcoming fall season. Current expectations are that the devices be used by all 32 teams by 2015. Their official use would require agreement from both the League and the Players Association.
Concussion Problems in the NFL
Last summer the NFL agreed to pay $765 million to settle a class action lawsuit filed by former players who suffered concussion-related injuries. That settlement has been put on hold by a federal judge who is questioning whether the $765 million is enough money to meet the needs of nearly 20,000 retired players.
In January, U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody asked for further financial analysis. In her preliminary rejection of the settlement amount, she wrote: “I am primarily concerned that not all retired NFL football players who ultimately receive a qualifying diagnosis or their [families] … will be paid.”
A recent NBC Sports article claims the NFL deliberately dragged its feet on developing sensors before the injured players’ lawsuit was settled. Lawyers were worried that any attempts to fix the problem would amount to an admission of guilt and set the NFL up for more liability. Last fall, a commentator suggested that it might not be a coincidence that the League’s full support for the sensor program only came after the lawsuit settlement was announced:
“Either way, the NFL is showing a new willingness to embrace technology as a way to address the problem of concussions. Regardless of the reason or the time, it’s good that the league is taking these steps.”