Good Results So Far

November 10, 2017

For the first time this year, all high school football programs in Omaha (Neb.) Public Schools (OPS) have been wearing helmets outfitted with the InSite Impact Response system. Despite some initial delays, the results so far look promising.

“The helmets will send a sensor that the student-athlete received a pretty strong hit, an assessment is done, and in many cases, there is no concussion,” Steve Eubanks, Athletic Director at OPS, told the Omaha World-Herald. “But we feel so much better having that data and that technology to assess the student-athlete.” 

The system’s software links each helmet with a player’s name, position, and number. The helmets are equipped with five-zone sensor pads, and athletic trainers or coaches carry a handheld device that is synced to the pads. These monitors alert athletic trainers or coaches if an athlete suffers an impact at a predetermined threshold.

When an alert is sent, athletic trainers and coaches follow a protocol established by OPS athletic trainers, doctors, and other health care providers. This entails removing an athlete from the playing field and assessing them for signs of concussion.

Throughout the season so far, the system has been tracking the impact data. The results allow coaches the opportunity to improve players' tackling techniques in order to avoid future hits to the head, though the system itself doesn’t prevent or diagnose concussions.

“It’s a tool not only for our medical staff but for our coaches,” said Dan Schinzel, EdD, Athletic Director at Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha. “You have a kid that’s getting a lot of alerts … a coach can look at that and say we have to work on him keeping his head up and … tackling with better form.”

In a typical practice, the alerts may go off once or twice, although different schools have seen higher or lower amounts. Having these alerts has allowed many concussions to be diagnosed that may have gone undetected before.

“So far, for us, it’s been a pretty good purchase,” said Bill Kleber, ATC, Athletic Trainer at Creighton Prep. “We’re kind of lucky to have them.”

Though the system is working smoothly now, there were some quirks to sort out in the beginning. For starters, some schools were delayed because coaches, doctors, and athletic trainers couldn’t agree on how the system would be used. Other schools waited a few weeks before using the helmet sensors because they had to input all the athlete information, distribute a fact sheet on the helmets to parents and students, and wait to receive parental consent forms and waivers. And then there was a glitch that caused the sensors to go off when players were standing on the sidelines, which mandated a software fix.

“The helmets have been fantastic,” Eubanks said. “They are a phenomenal tool, but if I could change anything, it would be to have more time on the front end to educate the coaches, to educate the trainers, to get information out to the parents and to the student-athletes.”

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