SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- It's been called the 'silent epidemic'. The Centers for Disease Control says about 3 million young athletes suffer from sports related concussions each year, but there are concerns many more are not being diagnosed. If left untreated, some symptoms can lead to a lifetime of problems.
A New England company has developed technology that could potentially be a 'game changer' when it comes protecting athletes from traumatic brain injuries. There were 32 reported concussions at South Portland High School last year. Some area high schools are seeing anywhere from 20 to 30 plus a year according to school athletic trainers. Protecting student athletes from head injuries is the driving force behind a Sudden Impact Monitor or SIM.
When worn on an athlete's head, it stores an electronic profile of how many hits a player takes in practices and games. It's puts key data in the hands of coaches and athletic trainers charged with keeping kids safe. But critics say it's unproven technology that's not ready for prime time.
When the South Portland Hockey team suits up for their practices and games -- these headbands are now part of their equipment.
But it's not just any 'headband' inside the front pocket is new technology that detects and records head impacts.
South Portland is the first high school in the state to allow it's players to wear a Smart Impact Monitor or SIM. Bob Dolan, is the sales director for Triax Technologies which produces the high-tech devices.
This is not a concussion monitor, we never say that by any stretch of the imagination, said Bob Dolan of Triax Technologies.
The lightweight SIM is the size of a wristwatch and provides athletic trainers and coaches information that can be used to identify head trauma and potentially prevent more serious injuries.
The SIM relay information on the g-force of the impacts in real time to a computer program -- up to 63 players at a time.
'It collects the magnitude, displays it and transfers it wirelessly to a sideline, pc, laptop or tablet,' said Dolan.
South Portland High School Athletic trainer John Ryan says 32 of the school's players had concussions last year. There have been 20 so far this year. Ryan says trainers and coaches follow state law which requires an injured athletes to come out of a game or practice. The student then must be examined by a professional trained in concussion management and follow other guidelines before they are returned to school and play. Ryan says SIMS is another tool to identify a potential concussion.
'Anything that comes down the road that is new and helps myself and other athletic trainers and health care providers manage these type of injuries is
welcome,' said John Ryan, the head athletic trainer on South Portland High School.
There is another way to smart impact monitors can be used to
minimize head trauma among student athletes the data collected also shows when
then athletes are not using proper techniques and that can be utilized as a teaching tool. The device is also being used by individual players.
16-year old Joe Spinney plays hockey for Marshwood High School, but already experienced three concussions in his young career.
His parents purchased a SIM monitor to protect him for another potential concussion.
The junior took two big hits in this game -- impacts Dolan tracked on his laptop in the stands.
Dr.John Hatzenbuehler is a sports medicine doctor at Maine Medical Center, who specializes in concussion management. He says concussions are caused by any hit that jars a person's head in two different directions. But he is leary of the SIM technology because scientists haven't determined what number of g-forces cause a concussion. He says data being collected should first be part of a controlled study.
'Anytime you make money off of a product without testing it for safety poses some bias, I think they are giving this information to parents without knowing what it means. It could lead to either pulling kids out wen they may not be hurt or vice versa. Until we have more information on what this means, using this and having it go directly to schools kinds of makes me nervous,' said Dr. Hatzenbuehler.
If you would like more information on the Smart Impact Monitor, you can go to triaxtec.com