The first study measures the impact of blocks and tackles using pressure sensors worn on the chest, abdomen and shoulder pads by some of the players under their uniforms. Players are being outfitted with wireless transmitters, which send information about the force and location of hits to laptop computers on the sidelines. To allow researchers to conduct the study, the NFL lifted the usual restrictions against computers on the sidelines.
We're trying to understand the biomechanics of the trauma players receive, so we can both assess how well their body armor is working and what physicians should be looking out for... It's difficult to assess these athletes on the sidelines when they've potentially sustained some kind of internal injury, especially when they're reluctant to leave the game.
In a separate study, researchers are employing infrared cameras to capture and analyze heat emanating from players as they rest on the sidelines during breaks in the game or after changes of ball possession. The data will be used to identify and help those who may be predisposed to heat illness.
Researchers say the knowledge gained from the studies could translate to better treatment for professional athletes as well as the rest of us.
Photo by Terrell Lloyd, San Francisco 49ers