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Can high-tech helmets safeguard young athletes against concussions?

Over the past decade, the number of youth athletes treated in hospital emergency rooms for concussions has doubled. The increased awareness about sports-related concussions has spurred researchers, including a group at Stanford, to explore what types of actions cause concussions and to work on improving methods for diagnosing head injuries.

One possibility for safeguarding children against concussions could be high-tech helmets that monitor head impacts, suggest researchers in a commentary published in Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine. DiscoveryNews reports today:

In football, at least 50 percent of head injuries are not reported, the authors note. But helmets equipped with sensors can alert medical personnel on the sidelines that an athlete has taken a certain number of hits associated with the risk of concussion.

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The authors, who have an affiliation with the Head Impact Telemetry System, a wireless apparatus that outfits players' helmets with padded sensors, say that the type of technology is not important. And athletes in sports who don't require helmets could use similar technology built into mouthguards or other headgear. It's not much different, the authors say, than limiting the number of pitches thrown in baseball and Little League, a practice that has been around for years.

Researchers say such helmets wouldn't be a diagnostic tool but would instead serve as an alert system to identify which players need further evaluation from an on- or off-site medical professional.

Previously: Study suggests teens are more vulnerable to effects of sport-related concussionsShould parents worry about their kids playing football?A conversation with Daniel Garza about football and concussionsHigh-tech mouthpieces used to advance medical understanding of concussions in football and When can athletes return to play? Stanford researchers provide guidance
Photo by Nick Weiler

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