The National Football League aims to expand a study that tracks on-field head impacts using sensors embedded in custom mouthguards by adding NCAA players from participating universities.
The college-level program first launched in 2021 with four schools: the University of Alabama, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Washington, and the University of Wisconsin. The NFL said it will also work with teams from the University of Florida, the University of Georgia, the University of Pittsburgh, and Vanderbilt University. Participation among players is voluntary.
The NFL’s concussion protocols have recently come under higher scrutiny following back-to-back head injuries suffered by Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa this past September. After being pulled from a game against the Buffalo Bills, Tagovailoa was cleared to play four days later against the Cincinnati Bengals.
During that game, after being sacked and hitting his head, Tagovailoa involuntarily flexed his arms and fingers in what has been described as the body’s fencing response, a sign linked to traumatic brain injury. Tagovailoa later told reporters he did not remember being carried off the field.
The NFL’s research project with college student-athletes will collect data on the forces in play during a head collision. The customizable digital mouthguards will be fit for each player through a partnership with Align Technology, the company behind the Invisalign brand of teeth straighteners.
The league said the research, which includes more than 250 players, could help inform the design of position-specific helmets or future game rules changes. A similar program using tech-enabled mouthguards has also been employed at four NFL professional teams.
The data itself will be anonymized and analyzed by the engineering consultant firm Biocore, as well as the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the NFL said.
Having athletes wear mouthguards with embedded sensors will help understand the specifics of head impacts and the force that may be transmitted to the brain. They will be able to examine what players/positions get the most hits, the amount of force sustained, the direction of that force, and the types of plays that lead to these impacts.
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Dr. Eric L Reese I
Dr. Eric L. Reese is a 25+ year veteran in the life sciences industry focusing primarily on sales, marketing and business development for startup companies with disruptive technologies. Also, Dr. Reese has authored articles and presented globally on the utility of market-driven applications approaches to sales and marketing for the life sciences market space. To date Dr. Reese has spearheaded over 50+ industry collaborations focused on market development and sales growth utilizing his market-driven applications approach for the life sciences market space.