It’s no mystery that concussions are a part of sports: football in particular.
Over the past few years, new rules have been put in place to try to combat concussion-producing hits. But sometimes that’s not enough. Concussions happen during regular, every day, tackles, during game play or practice, not just during the over-the-top targeting tackles.
Murphy Grant, the director of sports medicine and head athletic trainer for Kansas football, says he’s passionate about protecting the student athletes, especially from head-related injuries.
“I want to make sure that the game is safe,” Grant said. “I want to make sure that the game of football stays around for a long time, because it’s a fun game. But anything we can do to protect our athletes here at KU and athletes around the country, and even high school kids, I want to make sure that we’re a part of.”
Jesse Harper, the CEO of i1 Biometrics, and the rest of his team have been working on the i1 Biometrics Vector MouthGuard, Kansas’ new high-tech mouth guard, for three years.
Kansas isn’t the only team buying in. Harper says over 300 teams will be using the Vector MouthGuard in the fall.
“It detects in real time how hard a player gets hit on the field of play,” Harper said. “It sends that wirelessly to the sidelines, think of it like a smartphone in your mouth. It has many of the same components, accelerometers, gyroscopes, microprocessors, batteries, all of those types of things. There’s an antenna and computer on the sideline and with that it will show you a 3-D picture of the player’s head in real time and will not only say how hard that player got hit, but where on the head they got hit.”
When players sustain hits greater than the athletic trainers’ chosen threshold, they and the rest of training staffs will receive alerts detailing the hit.
There’s just one small problem—the large price. The Vector MouthGuard retails for $199. Currently, there are 79 student-athletes on the roster, adding up to a total of $15,721. However, Harper compares it to the common, custom mouth guards made by dentists. Those mouth guards have a price tag of around $250, without the hit tracking technology.
Harper hopes to see the price drop in the near future, so the product can be in the mouths of a wider range of athletes.
As for choosing Kansas, i1 Biometrics reached out to the program because of Grant.
“He’s really a leader in the athletic training community, in particular with the guidelines around concussions.” Harper said.
I1 Biometrics approached Grant in the early summer of 2014 and was on board to use the new technology right away, but some temporary setbacks occurred that pushed the team back until the 2015 season.
“I want to see the type of blows that are occurring,” Grant said. “With every position, you see a lot of the big hits that occur to the wide receivers and to the DBs (defensive backs) on those plays. But offensive and defensive linemen, every play there’s contact. If we can collect data on the types of hits that they’re sustaining on every play, as opposed to the big hit every 15-20 plays, it’s just some numbers that we’ll look at. If there’s some things we can do to help the cause with the offensive and defensive linemen and linebackers, then we’re going to try to.”
Link to Murphy Grant Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXynN_zTBlA