High-tech sensors are being used inside helmets to protect soldiers and professional athletes from work injuries such as traumatic brain injuries. The sensors measure the impact from blows to the head and check for consequences.
The U.S. government awarded a $17 million contract to BAE Supply for its Headborne Energy Analysis and Diagnostic Systems (HEADS), to measure data on head injuries. The credit-card size sensors are placed on the helmets that soldiers wear in combat to measure blast pressure, the duration of any impact, ambient temperature, the timing of single or multiple blasts, and linear and angular acceleration.
Brain injuries are one of the most serious injuries affecting soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the armed services can use the sensor technology to identify individuals who may need medical assistance for potential injuries. The data can also be used to make improvements in protective gear.
Similar sensors are being used in professional and amateur sports, to protect players from concussions. One sensor, the Shockwave, was developed by Illinois high school hockey coach Tim Johannes. The Shockwave can be calibrated to an individual player, testing for motor skill and balance. The clear sensor attaches to the back of a player’s helmet and turns red after a hard hit.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are approximately 1.7 million traumatic brain injuries each year.