Handheld Technology

Kansas American football team adopts tech mouthguards

The new Vector Mouthguard by i1Biometrics is a tech enabled solution which aims to tackle the persistent problem of concussion in American Football. Based on a series of sensors, it relays information on players’ head injuries back to a hand-held devices on the side-lines of the pitch. This data includes the time, direction and location of each impact, and everything is automatically stored in the cloud, so it can be properly analysed once the game is complete.

This technology is set to be trialled by Kansas University’s football team this Spring, while other schools and colleges across the US are also taking an interest. We catch up with Jesse Harper, President and CEO of i1Biometrics to find out what this might mean for the future of American football.

What do you think the impact of these new mouthguards will be?

Our expectation is that as monitoring and analysing forces becomes more common, our system will become the standard of care. We believe we are offering the best system in terms of both the software and the hardware and a system that provides the most useful, objective and robust data for sports medicine personnel and others charged with the care of athletes.


Can you explain how, in practice, this data will be monitored in real-time?

Anytime an impact is recorded that exceeds a minimum threshold of magnitude, a wireless alert is sent to a mobile phone on the side-line. The mobile alert can be sent to an athletic trainer, coach or team doctor. That decision is left to the school or team to determine who gets the alert. After receiving the alert, that person can view more detailed data on the side-line laptop. At his or her discretion, the trainer or certified personnel may decide to bring the player to the side-line for a closer evaluation.


Why do you think Kansas was one of these first to sign up for this?

The University of Kansas has a history or adopting and employing advances in sports medicine. In particular, Kansas has been very progressive in looking for ways to provide the highest level of care in the area of concussions. Kansas’ Director of Sports Medicine, Murphy Grant, is well known and respected as a thought leader in injury prevention and concussion management.


What other America football teams (college or otherwise) have shown an interest in this technology?

We are in conversations now with colleges and high schools all over the country and are in the process of announcing additional, major college programs who have chosen to adopt the Vector and the Impact Intelligence System.


How do you see this particular technology developing short, medium and long-term?

Today our technology is only available for caged, helmeted sports. Over time, we expect the Vector will become the standard for measuring forces in all sports. As a wearable tech company, we are also working on other important metrics for athletes. For example, we are planning to measure hydration and body temperature, which are tied to another key issue in sport - exertional heat illness. 


Once, longer term, you have begun gathering data from a variety of different American football sources, how do you think this will make the game safer?

Over the long-term, we’ll be able to use the data to understand more about each athlete’s unique physiology so we can learn where his or her susceptibilities to concussion are and begin to correlate head impacts or brain forces (whether it be magnitude, number, type, direction, location and time) with concussion. 


In addition to the sport medicine angle, we also believe our technology can be used to help teach and coach better techniques and fundamentals, which could lead to a change in behaviour that could also help reduce or prevent the number of concussions. The objective data that we collect can be used to justify and validate future changes to policy, equipment, and coaching techniques and drills.


Do you think in the long-run this will change the way football is played?

While we are not proponents of any major changes to the game of American football, we do believe an improvement in the fundamentals of tackling can be helpful – particularly at an early age.  We support, for example, the Heads Up movement that USA football has been successful in implementing over the last several years [to make the sport “better” and “safer”]. We think our technology can actually aid in this movement.


Is there anything else you would like to share with an international technology audience?

We recognise the worldwide passion and participation for sports such as soccer (“proper football”) and rugby. While our current product is not designed for these sports, we are excited with our products currently under development that will not only be applicable to these sports, but will address and leverage all elements of our technology.  Stay tuned…we are coming.


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