Some youth, high school and college football teams have been fitted with sensors. They have been used to test players for everything from G-force impact to monitor for concussions by researchers.
NFL officials said Wednesday that the league is close to fitting a limited number of players for sensors, according to USA Today. The news was released during the announcement for the second Head Health Challenge, a joint venture with Under Armour and General Electric to find ways better protect heads of football players and beyond.
Kevin Guskiewicz, University of North Carolina researcher and a member of the NFL's Head, Neck and Spine Committee, said they league is ready to try sensors on NFL players for the first time this season.
"Our goal is that by midseason we will have some teams geared up," Guskiewicz said at Wednesday's event at the headquarters of Under Armour.
Various types of sensors fit into mouth guards and helmet linings or can be worn on patches behind the neck. They transmit data on head impacts to laptops or tablets.
"We're getting close, and I think that we have some teams identified," said Guskiewicz, co-chair of the NFL's Subcommittee of Safety Equipment and Playing Rules.
"We're right now working with some teams to try to secure the ability to go in during their bye week and to get them outfitted. It's sort of just to look at this from a feasibility standpoint for half a season to see how this works, the value of having them in and which ones are liked the best in terms of wearing them without knowing it."
Dr. Guskiewicz has been using sensors for years while doing studies with the North Carolina Tar Heels football team. His sensor findings helped him convince the NFL to move kickoffs from the 30 to the 35-yard line.
One NFL official told NFL Evolution that Dr. Guskiewicz's timeline may faster than the league's. However, the NFL is looking down this path.
"That's how we changed the kickoff rule. â¦ Our UNC data was used to look at the frequency and magnitude of impacts on kickoffs relative to other plays," he said. "That rule was changed in part because of that data."
He said the sensors also could lead to changes in helmet designs by providing data on the severity and location of head impacts and how they vary by a player's position.
"It might be (analyzed) for linemen versus defensive backs or versus running backs. What locations do they most often take impacts on their helmet? What spot on the field are they most likely to take impacts?" said Guskiewciz. "So that could lead to a rule change. Or might there be a certain type helmet that a lineman might need relative to a defensive back?"
It remains to be seen how the players will react to such technology. One retired player, Hines Ward, told ESPN via Pro Football Talk that he would not be thrilled with it.
"You're gonna open up a whole Pandora's Box with it," Ward told ESPN. "For a doctor to read a computer and tell me how hard I've been hit and to pull me out of a game, that won't sit well with a lot of players."
-- Bill Bradley, contributing editor