Protecting football players from concussions

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- A groundbreaking study is taking place right here in the Valley to protect our football players from concussions.

“We really want something objective that's going to tell us when someone's concussed and when it's safe to go back to play,” saiys Dr. Javier Cardenas of Barrow Neurological Institute.

He says concussions can be difficult to diagnose because they're so subjective. “We rely on the athletes to give us information about their symptoms, their signs."

But now, those athletes at ASU are uniformed with special helmets with sensors that tells the magnitude, the force, and the frequency of the these collisions.

Dr. Jeffery Trent of TGEN has a team of 40 researchers on the project. About five of them are at every ASU football event. They even travel with the team, watching the Riddell helmet sensor information come in instantaneously.

“We focus on who has the three hardest hits and the three players who have the most cumulative hits in the game,” says Dr. Trent.

For the first time ever, researchers are combining that information with samples from the players. They are looking at the players' blood, saliva, and urine for a change in the body that would give a definitive and completely objective sign of a concussion.

“The most devastating injuries occur when somebody's sustained a concussion and they go back too soon, before they've recovered from their injuries and they sustain a second concussion,” says Dr. Cardenas.

Researchers hope this study could prevent that in the future by building a concussion detector of sorts right into player's protective gear. “Picture a mouth-guard - like what the players use - that might change to a different color if they've had an injury,” says Dr. Trent.