Can military-grade tech reduce head injuries in sports?

A football helmet liner can reduce the severity of impacts on the helmet by more than 50 percent.

In the coming years the biggest problem for the NFL won't be replacement refs or lockouts. It will be head injuries. It will be worried parents keeping their children off the football field when they hear studies like the one from the journal Neurology which found that professional football players are three times more like to develop neurodegenerative diseases than the general population and four times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease and ALS. Or this study that found that head impacts on football players in second grade were as severe as the impact for college players.

The NFL seems to have some idea of how high the stakes are for mitigating head injuries. New rules were put in place to reduce the severity and number of head injuries. And at the start of this season the NFL donated $30 million Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, the NFL's single largest donation to an organization ever, to focus medical research on brain injuries.

Even with new policies and greater awareness, head injuries and concussions will continue to happen. But one company claims it can significantly reduce them with new technology.

The company, Unequal Technologies, is touting test results from a study that found its military-grade CRT (concussion reduction technology) to be effective at reducing the severity of impacts against the helmet. Using a measurement known as the Severity Index, the study found that football helmets with CRT had a 53 percent reduction in the Severity Index compared to traditional helmets. There was also a 42 percent reduction when used in hockey helmets and a 55 percent reduction in baseball helmets.

"I've recommended CRT to both collegiate and professional athletes," said Dr. Joseph Maroon, a neurosurgeon and team doctor for professional football teams, in a press conference. "Their response in using the product has been enthusiastic as they have reported reductions in post-game headaches and other related symptoms."

Will technology like this save football? Only time and more research will tell. Of course, this technology won't completely end head injuries but, for better or worse, it might help parents feel better about their kids playing the game. That is if they can get past the company's unrelenting comparisons betweens sports and the military.

Photo: Unequal Technologies

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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