A team of researchers at the University of Florida (UF), Gainesville, are using sensor technology placed in the helmets of their football players to help measure the force of on-field hits to better understand and prevent concussions and treat them before they cause lasting damage.

The Head Impact Telemetry System (HITS) can measure the impact, duration, and location of each hit football players take in real time. The researchers will correlate the data they collect from the sensors with additional data from blood and magnetic resonance imaging tests in order to get a complete picture of concussions when they occur in athletes.

They began using the system at the start of the current football season in August and are measuring hits in 30 football players on the UF team. In addition to helping the researchers understand more about the forces at work in concussions, the data collected from the sensors also can help individual players reduce their own risk of injury.

For example, the system has already allowed the researchers to see that some players were putting their heads down during tackles, which is dangerous and increases their risk of concussion and cervical spine injury. The coaching staff was alerted and then able to talk to the players so they could correct the behavior.