Football and concussions

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 4:26pm

In a game with Texas Tech this past Saturday Baylor University quarterback Robert Griffin III took a forearm to the head, suffering an apparent concussion.

Hits like these are behind a class action lawsuit filed against the NCAA in which three former college football players and one soccer player allege the organization hasn't done enough to raise awareness or treat brain injuries in athletes.

Concussion experts say it's impossible to point to one or two big hits as the problem when high-level athletes have been playing, and playing hard, since childhood.

Dr. Stefan Duma and colleagues at Virginia Tech spent the fall football season measuring head impacts in kids.

The goal is to collect enough data to help design the best possible youth football helmet.

"Right now there's no way to know how you should design the helmet because no one knows exactly how hard and how often the kids are getting hit," Duma says.

Some say using specialized helmets to measure concussions can cause errors because of the space and motion between the helmet and the skull.

"The next best thing in a live human is to affix sensors to the teeth, which are rigidly attached to the skull," points out the Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Adam Bartsch.

At the Cleveland Clinic researchers are developing an "intelligent mouth guard."

Microsensors in the mouth guards will collect information on head impacts in youth hockey players this winter.

The NCAA says the current lawsuit is "misguided" and says in a statement:

"The NCAA has great compassion for student-athletes who are injured as a result of training, practice, or competition, which fuels our desire to make student-athlete safety a top priority."

While safety should be a top priority on the playing field, it now seems the topic may be debated in a courtroom.

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