I have played football competitively for sixteen years, and have always been ignorant to the effects of brain trauma, depression, CTE, and all the other side effects of playing the game. Part of me was trying to ignore these side effects football related injuries because I did not want to know how bad it could be. Another part of me just ignored such injuries because I knew it would affect my play if I focused too much on the harm they could inflict. I played an internal, mental game of ignorance to pretend nothing that serious could ever happen to me. After my last football game for Boston College, I was finally willing to watch the movie, Concussion. I was overcome with all kinds of emotions and have since been very interested in ways we can mitigate risk and protect players. Other long-term effects of the game have raised alarming results, and compounded the dangers we know of.
Ill try my best not to make this blog depressing and horrifying. I really want to highlight some innovative technologies that have been invented to protect players. However, this is a serious issue, and many of the long-term effects of playing football at a competitive level are terrifying. But this blog will be intended to highlight the good side of technology, and all the benefits it can bring to the game!
In recent years, traumatic head injuries have been studied more extensively. The violence of the game continues to increase as competitors continue to get bigger, faster, and stronger. Football is essentially sixty minutes of grown men crashing into each other multiple times. Neuropathologists have studied effects of injuries such as depression and CTE, and have identified aspects of the game that increase the chances of destructive patterns later on in a player’s life. After seeing close teammates suffer from such injuries, I realized that football leagues, players, and fans all have a responsibility to make a change.
As a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas High School, I am proud to say that my former high school has taken great steps to ensure the safety of their players. They have introduced technologies and practice habits that will forever change the way the game is played. Head coach, Roger Harriott has been instituting changes to make the game safer. He has made certain restrictions during practice time, but his biggest change he has made for the high school powerhouse involves an innovative piece of technology. Coach Harriott recently introduced several pairs of motorized human-size robots that are wrapped in foam. Players tackle and block these dummies, which saves their teammates from unnecessary hits. Coach Harriott said, “Ultimately, it’s for these guys to become a champion in life—a champion husband, a champion father, community leader, colleague.”
The creation of the MVP football dummy started when Buddy Teevans, the head football coach at Dartmouth, came up with a philosophy to protect players. He was adamant about creating a product that would replace “live” tackling in practice. His product eliminated dangerous hits and allowed the fundamentals of football to be taught in a controlled environment. The genesis of the MVP tackling dummy sparked a great deal of innovation in the sport.
At St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Coach Harriott has made a conscious decision to protect the players and their future with various types of technology. During workouts, several players wear monitors that track heart rate, exertion levels, and more. The strength staff closely monitors players with a history of conditions that may affect performance. On the field, over half the team wears shoulder pads with sensors in them. This technology records top speeds of the athlete, collision force, body temperatures, and other important variables.
St. Thomas Aquinas has been a very successful high school football team in the last ten years, and much of the technology they use has been available to them due to sponsors like Gatorade and Nike. We need to find a way for more high schools to have the ability to use these types of technology. Additionally, every college football team in the “Power 5” conference needs to be using innovative technologies to protect the players. They certainly have the disposable income to do so…
Technology has allowed society to progress and improve in so many ways. Sports that involve a great deal of injuries need to implement innovative technology capabilities that will protect the players and improve the game. I hope that some of these emerging technologies are just the start for the implementation of technology in football on a big scale.