Riddell unveils new wireless helmet tech

Football's leading helmet maker is introducing wireless technology to analyze and assess the risk of hits. AP Photo/Robert E. Klein

The NFL has tried a number of tactics to help reduce players’ head injuries and concussions, including pushing kickoffs up five yards and requiring medical clearance before game time. It was only a matter of time before technology could step in and make a difference.

Now, it looks like that time has come, at least on the youth level. Riddell, maker of the official helmet of the NFL, has announced its latest innovation, and it could be good news for football players across the country.

The Riddell InSite Impact Response System monitors, records and transmits the impact that players sustain on the field. Situated within a helmet and transmitted wirelessly, Riddell InSite allows coaches and medical personnel to view the data and determine whether a player can safely continue playing.

The wireless helmet system is based on previous Riddell helmet technologies, including the Head Impact Telemetry System (HITS) and Sideline Response System (SRS), which have been used since 2003 and have recorded nearly 2 million impacts in that time.

InSite works like this: When a player is hit, a five-point sensor called a player unit, located in the helmet liner, measures the impact. If the impact (or series of impacts) falls outside of an acceptable range, the sensor issues a wireless alert, which is received on a monitor by the coach or staff on the sideline. Medical personnel can then examine the player and assess his condition, determining if it’s safe for him to continue in the game.

In addition to monitoring and recording each individual impact in every game, InSite also includes player management software which tracks equipment assignments to players as well as recording impact exposure over time.

Teams of up to 150 players can use the response system, and it was designed to help in practice as well as in games. In addition to alerting coaches to potential injuries, Riddell officials note that the device is also valuable in training players how to hit in a way that’s less risky.

Beginning in spring 2013, Riddell InSite will be available for purchase at Riddell's website and will be on the field during the 2013 football regular season. This will not be used in the NFL, but expect to see it on the youth and high school levels.

The big takeaway here is if the data is in front of them, coaches can make safer decisions, and players can’t contest when they're pulled out of games. Data don't lie.