News stories about high-profile professional football players who have died or been seriously disabled as a result of repeat head injuries have brought more public attention to this problem. Anyone who participates in a contact sport is at risk for brain trauma, including student athletes on football, hockey and soccer teams. Parents, teachers and coaches need to be aware that even a so-called minor blow to the head can have devastating repercussions.  The first head-gear that can monitor injuries is now available, but it may be awhile before this technology is widely adopted.

  • Reebok and MC10 have introduced the CheckLight, a beanie with electronic sensors that evaluate any impact to the head and activate flashing lights if a moderate or severe reaction is detected.
  • The beanie can be worn alone or under a standard helmet. Coaches who notice any blinking lights can intervene and remove the player from the game.
  • Similar technology can also be embedded in a headband or adhesive patch. Some models communicate information about head trauma wirelessly.

Concerned parents may applaud this new technology, but others may balk at the price — $150 for the CheckLight. Protocols for responding to every blinking light during a game have yet to be established, and there is the possibility that teams may figure out how to intentionally set off a monitor to get particular players taken off the field. And, as sensitive as these monitors are, they cannot diagnose concussions.

Any technology that can help prevent the serious consequences of sports-related traumatic brain injuries is a step in the right direction, but the responsibility for keeping student athletes safe ultimately rests on the supervising adults employed by the school. When they neglect their duties and a child ends up with a serious disability, the staff and school may be liable for damages.