No Green Light for Helmet Sensors at Va. High Schools

Last March, Bethesda, Md., company Brain Sentry offered to supply every high school football and lacrosse player in Loudon County, Va. with helmet impact sensors that light up when they're hit with a force of 80G or higher.

Loudon County Public Schools originally declined the offer, pointing out that the sensors hadn't been sufficiently tested and that they may impede an athletic trainer's ability to test or treat an athlete for a concussion.

In the months since the county's refusal, parents, athletic trainers and the district's school board have clashed on whether or not sensors should be allowed.

RELATED: Study: Adolescent Concussion Risk Unrelated to Helmet

Certain parents went as far as trying to implement Riddell's Insite Impact Response System, a helmet sensor that's used by 207 football teams in the United States and certified by a national safety organization.

At one school, a coach put the external sensors on about 30 players’ helmets during a practice in August. He has since been fired. 

On Nov. 5, Deputy Superintendent Ned Waterhouse officially declared that the administration has decided not to allow the devices in practices or games.

“I don’t think [the school system’s] mission is to do research in sports medicine or researching in validating devices like this,” Waterhouse said at a school board committee meeting on Nov. 4.

“I’m not saying we should never use helmet sensors," he added. "I’m saying right now we’re making a responsible decision to decline to do a helmet sensor pilot or study in our high schools.”

RELATED: Robot to Help Diagnose Concussions at Dartmouth

Dee Howard, a mother of one of the Loudon Valley football players, submitted a petition signed by 100 parents to try and get the sensors the green light. 

The signees have offered to not only purchase the sensors, but to collect data from the devices as well.

“I could have thousands of parents show up to meetings and I still don’t think they’d allow it,” Howard said after the committee meeting. “If we're willing to pay for it for our kids, I think we should have the right to use these sensors."

Howard has offered to submit another petition with 1,000 signatures, so that the sensors get approved by the school system.

“The trainers don’t see all the hits,” she said. “They can’t monitor how hard they are hit, nor do they count them. The trainers are usually working on someone. They can’t monitor everyone, nor count how many hits my child took that week, or month.”

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