Purdue researchers look at concussions in high school athletes

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Concussions have always been a concern on the football field, but now researchers are investigating head injuries in other sports, as well.

At the boys' sectional tournament in Frankfort Friday, there were thrills on the hardwood, but hard medical truths, too.

"Right now, the technology is such that we don't have a real good way of monitoring those blows to the head," said Dr. Larry Leverenz.

The Purdue athletic training expert looks at basketball and soccer and other high school sports that don't use protective helmets for players.

At a recent soccer game at North Central, two players were pulled from the field for sideline checks after smacking heads.

Leverenz of Purdue is looking for ways to measure the force of those impacts. Purdue has already built sensors for football helmets that measure the forces on players heads. Then they've examined those same high school athletes with CT scans and written tests, looking for any sign of brain injury linked to those hits.

That helped lead the way to new padding inside helmets to cushion the brain against blows. Purdue now seeking patents on that padding which could go inside double-shell helmets.

Concussions are not as common in basketball or soccer as they are in football, but measuring those impacts is harder in those sports.

"That's our goal is to develop a set of sensors that can allow us to monitor virtually any sport," Leverenz said.

Others, including a team at Stamford University, have developed mouth guards with linear accelerators and gyroscopes that record the strength of impacts on players. There's even research on small patches that can be placed behind the ear to gather data.

At Frankfort's Case Arena, the athletic director says bring it on. He says any good data will help his coaches keep his student athletes safer.