The non-profit Sports Legacy Institute (www.sportslegacy.org) announced earlier this week “a major advance in the effort to prevent concussions and brain damage in contact sports” with the launch of the Hit Count® certification program after two years of development.
Hit Count® builds on the progress that head sensor device companies have made in developing devices that can measure acceleration of the head. Current products used on the field are focused on alerting coaches, medical professionals, and parents when a potential concussive impact occurs.
Inspired by Pitch Counts baseball, which set limits to the number of times a player throws from the mound to prevent arm injury, Hit Count® Certified Devices will have a second function that measures and “Counts” impacts that exceed the Hit Count® Threshold, set by a committee of leading scientists, with the goal of minimizing brain injury.
“Research using sensor devices has revealed that each year in the United States, there are over 1.5 billion impacts to the heads of youth and high school football players,” said Chris Nowinski, Founding Executive Director of SLI who launched the Hit Count® initiative in 2012 with SLI Medical Director Dr. Robert Cantu. “Most hits are unnecessary and occur in practice. By utilizing Hit Count® certified products as a teaching tool for coaches and a behavior modification tool for athletes, we can eliminate over 500 million head impacts next season.”
Committee member Gerry Gioia, PhD, of Children’s National Medical Center and George Washington University School of Medicine, unveiled that the Hit Count® Threshold will be set at the subconcussive level of 20 g’s of linear acceleration. “This is the beginning of a major research and public health effort to limit brain trauma in sports. While current science does not provide a “safe” or “unsafe” Hit Count®, our goal is to eventually provide clear guidance for coaches and parents. We will need the youth sports, sensor manufacturer, and medical science communities to work together to provide reliable answers.”
Hit Count® Certified products will go through “a rigorous test protocol” developed by the University of Ottawa Neurotrauma Impact Laboratory in conjunction with engineers from the six Hit Count® Initiative sponsors, including Battle Sports Science, G-Force Tracker, i1Biometrics, Impakt Protective, MC10, and Triax.
“Head sensor devices involve complex technology, and many sensors on the market today are not accurate,” said Dr. Blaine Hoshizaki, Director of the Neurotrauma Lab that developed the test, which is open to any company in the space. “Hit Count® Certification, the first and only sensor certification in the marketplace, will give consumer and research scientists the confidence that the sensors are accurately measuring impacts, providing simple and actionable data.”
G-Force Tracker, which is implanted inside football, ice hockey, and lacrosse helmets, is the first company to be Hit Count® Certified, with more products expected to be tested and certified later this year.
The “blue ribbon” consensus committee that set the threshold included Drs. Robert Cantu and Ann McKee of Boston University, Kevin Guskiewicz of the University of North Carolina, David Hovda of UCLA, Gerry Gioia of Children’s National Medical Center, Blain Hoshizaki of the University of Ottawa, William Meehan of Harvard Medical School, and Kelly Sarmiento of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).