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New safety measures in place to help prevent brain injuries

Traumatic brain injuries or TBIs, could be suffered in a motor vehicle accident as well as by a collision on the football field. Pittsburgh football players at every level face the risk of suffering a TBI every time they step out on to the field.

On average, research shows that professional players will get hit in the head anywhere from 900 to 1,500 times during a season. That means that about 60 percent of football collisions are head-to-head, and some of these collisions lead to permanent disability. Once a player suffers one concussion, they are more likely to suffer more concussions in the future. The most tragic cases are ones like that of Ohio State University defensive lineman Kosta Karageorge, who had a history of concussions and died of a self-inflicted gunshot.

When a collision occurs, almost all motion stops within 10 to 15 milliseconds. The only part that keeps moving is the brain, which absorbs the force and is is violently thrown against the skull. There have been many controversial cases where a coach has left a player in the game after suffering a concussion. NFL players recently filed a class action suit accusing the NFL of failing to protect the players and covering up the long-term health effects that stem from concussions.

The good news is that helmets, mouthguards and other forms of protective gear are designed to help prevent brain injury. Helmets can reduce the risk of some concussions, but they cannot provide 100 percent protection from injury.

Technology continues to improve, making today's protective gear much superior to gear of the past. For example, Force Impact Technologies has created the FITGuard, a mouthguard with LED lights that change color depending on the force. This will be available early next year and could help determine whether a player is suffering from a concussion.

Helmet magnets may also be in the future of the sport. These magnets could reduce the force of impact, thereby protecting the brain. While these innovative ideas may help prevent severe brain injury, they may not be able to prevent concussions altogether.

Players also need to be educated about concussions and how to make plays in the safest way possible. Brain injuries can have a dramatic impact on a person's future and it is important that we do our best to protect athletes from these injuries.

Source: Tech Crunch, "Mouthguards, Magnets And Smart Helmets Are Putting The Brakes On Traumatic Brain Injuries," Tishin Donkersley, Dec. 26, 2014

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