Football and hockey are gearing up for another season, but there's another battle being played out this season--high impact sports vs. high tech equipment.

With football season beginning and hockey not far behind, last year's hot topic in sports—concussions—is resurfacing. Football and hockey are the top culprits when it comes to sports that cause concussions, but why is it only in the last few years that we’ve heard so much about this all too common injury in the news?

Did you know? Signs of a concussion commonly include a headache, confusion, fatigue, and irritability.

The number of concussions reported in the National Football League (NFL) rose by 21 percent last year, with similar statistics in many high-impact sports. But it's probably not because more athletes are getting concussions, but rather that more people are aware of the symptoms. With more athletes, coaches, and parents on the lookout for a concussion, more of them are being correctly diagnosed.

Along with increased awareness, the media hype about concussions has also encouraged many new inventions to help prevent and diagnose these brain injuries. This season, helmets are getting a technological boost to help detect concussions.

Did you know? G-force is measured as a body's acceleration (or deceleration) compared to the force of gravity (g). If you are sitting on earth right now – and you probably are – your g-force is 1. Lugers can go up to 5g, while jet pilots can hit 12g. The "zero gravity" felt in space is exactly that: zero g.

A new piece of gear could be worn by players on select National Hockey League (NHL) teams this year. It's called the Shockbox and it fits into an athlete's helmet. The tiny device is able to calculate the force of a hit received by an athlete's head. When the Shockbox senses a jolt that is stronger than 60 g-forces it sends a wireless signal to a Smartphone or laptop, letting coaches know that player needs to be brought off the ice and checked for signs of a concussion.

Detecting when a concussion has occurred is good, but preventing one would be even better. Wearing a helmet is a good way to protect your head, but a concussion occurs when your brain hits the inside of your own skull, so a regular helmet can't stop that from happening.

Not so with the new Xenith X2 helmet that has shock absorbing discs built in to dull the force of impact. By taking some of the punch out of a hit before it reaches the skull, the brain can be saved from some of the movement, thus lowering the risk of an injury.

Did you know? In football, linemen get hit the most, but running backs get hit the hardest.

But, what happens if you have a concussion already? New technology is making prevention and diagnosis easier, but the treatment for a concussion still remains the same: plenty of rest!

Learn More!

Public Health Agency of Canada, Concussions in Sports Campaign: Think First

Impakt Protective

Article first published September 21, 2011

Photo credit:Jonathan Edwards, stock.xchng

Jalyn Neysmith

Jalyn Neysmith is a museum exhibit developer with degrees in archaeology and science communication. She loves to travel and has lived in Alberta, Ontario and Australia, and is currently at the Field Museum of natural history in Chicago. When not globetrotting she can be found running adventure races, snowboarding, or playing the fiddle.

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