Increasing concern about concussions led to a new Indiana state law, which took effect July 1, requiring high school football coaches to take concussion awareness training. A small helmet device being used this week by the Indiana high school football All-Stars could help detect those dangerous hits to the head.
Every player on the North and South squads is wearing an extra piece of safety equipment this week during practices at the University of Indianapolis. Right on the back of every helmet is the Brain Sentry impact detection sensor.
"It measures the amount of rotational force on the head," said South head coach Jake Gilbert, also the head coach at Westfield High School. "If a kid was involved in a violent collision and the force exceeded a certain amount, then a light blinks and goes off. It basically just helps us as coaches and helps the players. It's like an extra set of eyes."
College programs like Alabama and LSU use the helmet sensors, and the Arena Football League requires them. The cost of the sensors is $75 each for the first season, and $55 each for subsequent seasons.
"When it turns red," said Roncalli offensive lineman Cal Scifres, "it's saying the hit was hard enough for the player to have a concussion and then they'll take you in to get tested."
A red light on the sensor does not indicate a concussion, but warns the player, coaches and team medical staff that a potentially concussion causing impact has occurred. Further testing by a trainer or doctor is required to diagnose a concussion.
"It's a pretty good sense of security," said Scifres, who will play this fall at the University of Indianapolis. "But as a competitor you don't ever want to be taken out of practice, so I don't really like that fact. But at the same time, I know that it's there for my best, so it's probably good in the long run that they have it here just in case I do get hit really hard."
"Most players don't want to come out," said Lawrence Central defensive tackle James Jones, who is headed to Millikin University in the fall. "It's football, they want to play. But again, you have to worry about your health. That's a big deal."
Gilbert arranged for the donation of the sensors for the All-Stars. His Westfield team will use them this fall for the first time.
"Priority number one is the safety of the kid, always," said Gilbert. "Games are emotional. Kids only get so many games. They don't want to come out. Coaches don't want to take them out, whatever. This takes the decision out of your hands. If the sensor goes off, they see the trainer, period."
Westfield quarterback Nick Ferrer will play college football at St. Francis in Fort Wayne. Ferrer suffered one concussion in high school while playing basketball.
"People ridicule football," said Ferrer, "but it happens in every sport. In basketball, you're not wearing a helmet, so I think it's more possible in basketball or soccer or any other sport than it would be, say, football."
The sensor keeps track of a player’s repeated big hits during the season and can also be used on hockey and lacrosse helmets.
The National Federation of State High School Associations offers a free concussion-awareness program on its website at www.NFHSlearn.com.
IHSAA concussion guidelines
All-Star Game information
The 2014 Grange Insurance All-Star Classic, presented by the Indiana Football Coaches Association, kicks off Friday, July 18, at North Central High School at 7:00 p.m. The 48th edition features Indiana’s best graduating high school seniors. Proceeds benefit Camp Riley, a camping facility near Martinsville designed specifically for children with physical disabilities, and the Indiana Football Hall of Fame.
Tickets to the event can be purchased at the door or by sending an email to Dave Land at email@example.com.
Adult presale: $7
Adults at the game: $8
Students at the game: $5
Children (ages 5-8) presale: $4
Children (under 4 years old): FREE
$1.00 off discount tickets are available prior to July 17. To order advance discount tickets, make your check payable to: North/South All-Star Game, 1024 Warwick Road, Muncie, IN 47304.