Watch It Again

January 22, 2019

An emerging practice in evaluating concussions and other injuries has taken hold in the NCAA’s Mountain West Conference. First put in place by the U.S. Air Force Academy, an instant video replay system is already impacting the way some athletic training staffs are treating their student-athletes.

“Over the last four years, we’ve been working the bugs out and we’ve finally come to where it’s a pretty solid tool for us to use on a day-to-day basis,” Erik Marsh, ATC, an Assistant Athletic Trainer and medical observer for football at Air Force, told the Idaho Statesman. “…When the concussion era blew up and everybody started to go to a medical observer, it’s fine to have someone who is an eye in the sky, but my eyes are no better than the folks who are trained on the field. The advantage with the video is now we can look outside of real time and review it several times while the group is out there evaluating the player.”

From the press box, Marsh monitors the action and cuts the game’s video feed into individual numbered plays, which are then made available for the Falcons’ athletic training staff on the sideline to review on iPads. Upon injury, Marsh radios down to the field to tell the athletic trainers which play to watch video of. For speedy and reliable delivery, Air Force installed private Wi-Fi networks and also hard-wired an internet connection in the athletic training room.

Erick Kozlowski, ATC, Head Athletic Trainer for Air Force football, confirms the system has been especially helpful. He pointed to instances in the past when the extent of a player’s injuries wasn’t always clear.

“There’s been times we weren’t sure if a guy was unconscious on the field,” he said. “We brought him off and he did a normal exam but we didn’t release him to play because the review showed quite clearly he had a change in his consciousness right after he was struck on the field.”

“A lot of times a player will lose consciousness for [three] or [four] seconds, but by the time we get there he’s already awake,” added Marsh. “When I review (the video) and watch, I can see he’s lost consciousness.”

It didn’t take long for the athletic training staff at Boise State University to notice what Air Force was doing, and the Falcons’ athletic trainers were more than happy to host Boise State’s medical observer and provide a tutorial of its video replay system. Shortly thereafter, Marc Paul, MS, LAT, ATC, Boise State’s Associate Athletic Director for Sports Performance, Health, and Wellness announced that the Broncos would be adopting their own video replay system for injury evaluation, which will be ready in time for the 2019 fall season and will be used across the athletic department. Visiting teams will also have access to the potentially life-saving system.

“We need that at every conference school,” said Paul.

According to Paul, Boise State invested roughly $10,000 in start-up costs for its new athletic training video replay system. It was tested for the first time during the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl at Boise State’s Albertsons Stadium on Dec. 21.

“It really is chump change for what it’s adding to our observations,” said Marsh.

Instant video replay is something Air Force hopes becomes available to athletic trainers at each of the Mountain West’s 12 football stadiums. After showing Boise State the ropes, the Falcons have high hopes the system they’ve pioneered will catch on.

“With Boise State’s name that they carry within the Mountain West, hopefully they’ll press the Mountain West to put these in stadiums to make it easier on the staffs as they travel,” said Marsh.

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