Before practice the coach, I should say coaches, wanted a report from me about what I had seen and how the system was going. I showed them the video from the previous day and where on the head the hits were registering for our worst offenders of dropping their heads at contact (verified). I also noted that some of our starters were getting more hits collected than the average teammate.
The head coach made it a point to tell the assistants to address the players that were leading with their head to correct that during our form tackling and to reinforce during live action to get the eyes up. Then after that was all done he came to my training room and asked me about how many hits and how big some of the players were getting.
I had noticed the previous two days what these 30 and 40g hits looked like and they were above “normal” collisions but not “make the crowd go oooh” type hits. He inquired about the big hit that the LB/RB took in that drill mentioned in the earlier post. I told him it was below 50. He wanted a number of hits that the kids had taken, for what other than his information I had no idea, and boy was I wrong and in a good way.
It was pretty simple the RB/LB combo players had taken the most with an average 22 in two days (day one shortened due to lightning), next were the RB only with an average of 15, then the DL with 14 and the OL with 11. Not as many as I expected, but then again our coach is very limited in hitting drills. In a five-minute segment they maybe get off 12 plays at the most and there are no more than six of those a day.
This is a good point to also tell you that these are “thud” drills, we have had one five-minute of live all season so far to go along with our 1’s vs. 1’s for four plays at the end of the day.
At most you could see 72 impacts a day, if you were in on every single rep of thud action in a practice. The starters probably see about 70% of the reps so we could expect to see at most 51 impacts in a practice. And in day two most any starter registered was 13 so that is about 25% of all plays that are resulting in reported impacts on the Vector. If one were to expand that over an 11 week season that is practice only it would be about 429 registered hits (three days of thud hitting). Our coach will only hit/thud on Tuesday and Wednesday, so the players that play only on varsity could expect 286 from practices.
Side note: these are numbers I will be looking back on to compare to what actually happens
When discussing this with the coach he simply stated, in the form of a question, “would it be a bad idea to hold some of these starters from the contact portion of practices?” Knowing fully what I was going to say, NO.
My coach gets it!
The third day of action started with a re-check of the data, and I noticed some anomalies with two spikes of greater than 80g coming from mouthguards that had data dumped after reporting after the fact. I was again concerned b/c how could we have missed these, with what we have learned about the 30, 40, 50 and 60g hits so far. Again to the video, and there was nothing, squat, both instances were incomplete passes and the WR was the one reporting the impacts.
I talked again to the i1biometrics staff, this time it was the CEO who was answering my questions. I told him about the incidents and he explained “clacks” to me and how the algorithm is designed to weed those out. As he was talking to me I noticed something on the film, each WR had screamed loud enough that you could see them shake on the film (they weren’t yelling obscenities because kids don’t do that). That’s when I stopped him mid-sentence and asked could that be causing this?
To which he said was entirely possible because of the fit was a little loose before yelling, like starting to take the mouthguard out, and there was the burst of energy from the yell it was plausible. Sure we don’t want false positives and we only want captures of the impacts but this video break down and discussion was important to note that is why you need someone trained running this system. That is why these systems will never be stand-alone decision makers. You need someone who understands the injury of concussion running these things and I cannot think of a better population than athletic trainers.
Needless to say that is an issue that is also being addressed, and may not even be able to taken out, but that is still good information to have for all parties. I was told that if it happens regularly that would be an indication of improper fit and the need to be re-fit; which is also good to know.
Now back on to the field. Set up in about 45 seconds and ready to roll, I went to do my duties of warming up the kids and by the time I got back to the base station all 39 of the Vectors that were in use were reporting to the computer. I also had info that some players decided to forget to charge their mouthguard as their battery level was down. I had busted the kids and I busted them out in front of the entire team, to mainly laughter.
Coaches were on alert for the head droppers as well as noting any hits that they thought were worthy of noting by hearing “Fink, mark that, ‘X’ player.” Everyone is buying in. All the while the kids are just playing football like they intended, nothing has changed for them, even down to the incessant chewing on the mouthguards (no wonder fit goes away, duh). But that is why I am trialing this, to see what I can throw at it.
There was not much remarkable happenings in the hitting drills, but the computer told a different story, for the OL and DL. If you could have heard the coaches they were all over them, for sloppy technique and lack of aggressiveness and every time it got heated the computer noted. This is becoming quite the phenomenon in empirical/observational data.
As practiced ended coach was in front of the team doing his thing when he told them all to look over to the antenna and say, “you don’t know how lucky you are to have this technology here and a guy that knows how to use this” (yes, I blushed). He then went on to say that due to the information he has gotten from it so far that a few of the players would not be participating in the scrimmage because there was no reason to expose them to any more risk before game week.
My coach, who I knew was bought in – heck he fronted this – was now making player safety decisions of his own volition based on info that I was able to decipher from the Vector Mouthguards. He didn’t care about mom and dad coming to the scrimmage to see players play in a meaningless event, he is more concerned about his players well-being.
So tomorrow morning we have a meeting to go over who is going to not be playing and who is going to get limited reps. He also wants to address the drills where the most contact is coming from to see if there is a way we can less that, if possible.
He, along with me, both fully understand that the only way you can possibly avoid concussion is to minimize exposure. To make that point very clear he is doing exactly that, regardless if there is scientific data on it or papers written about it, it just feels right to him.
I really wish you all had a coach like I do.
And right now, I wish you all could see what this system can do. I will reserve the banners and fireworks for the end of the year because there could be some hang ups along the way, but if first impressions are important the Vector Mouthguards are certainly starting off right.
Up next, game week and our first game. Stay tuned…