Vector Mouthguard Season Wrap Up: Product Review and Impressions

I find myself in a peculiar situation in regards to the Vector Mouthguard; I have indeed benefited from the relationship as mentioned in the first post about this product. However, I have also been honest and blunt with them while dealing with the product. I have made every attempt to be as objective and neutral on any product or research on this blog, in cases where my integrity may have been perceptually challenged I have noted such.

However, I have looked at many blogs about various products and come to the conclusion that this post is going to be an in-depth product review with my honest feedback. You, the reader, will have to trust – hopefully based on my track record – that it is an unbiased assessment. Heck this is just like the YouTube toy reviews that my and your kids watch constantly, minus the video and my ugly mug.

Enough with the mental hand-wringing and on to the after-season report on the Vector Mouthguard (you can catch up from previous posts with “It’s Actually Happening…“, “Day 1“, “Seeing Is…“, “Practical Application…” and “Ready for Primetime“). The last post about the mouthguard was prior to the first game and our team went on to play 10 games so there were a lot of happenings in regards to the Vector, I could write 3000 5000 words on it but no one would read all of it. I will try to bullet the ups and downs as well as noteworthy case uses. At the end I will attempt to address the common questions I had about this from other professionals, parents, coaches and kids. In advance, thanks for your time and if you have further questions hit up the comment section or my inbox.

Immediately the system had media attention about what we were doing for player safety at the high school as the “strange-looking” mouthguards were on the kids as well as a radar looking device on the sideline. Still in the quasi-euphoric/excitement stage of the process there was this interview that I did (completely independent) and captured the first three weeks of the regular season.

During that time we did have some individual mouthguards that were not functioning as planned/expected and some charging issues with the base units. Through conversations with the tech team at i1biometrics we were able to get everything going that was outside the norm. This is a key piece to note; the customer service was unbelievable and agile. Granted there were not thousands of systems in use and none of them had a loud-mouthed blogger running them, it was still what I can see this company continuing to provide for anyone with this product. A lot of the service could be done remotely or via mail. The grasp of the system and the actual engineers that are part of the solution team make it what it is.

As mentioned I didn’t quite know how or if this was going to change how I “did” things as an athletic trainer. Upon the month-long reflection and review after the season I noticed that I did change what I did. I started using the information provided to put a watchful eye on certain players and to confirm what I did see with my eyes. Or in one case I used it to see what happened to a player that I did not witness but my coaches told me about happening in a game. The system had started to provide me eyes that I don’t have but I never really relied on those eyes, but was happy they were there.

During games I started to Continue reading

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Ready For Primetime

This post is a continuation of the ongoing in the wild review of the Vector Mouthguard System. You can see the previous posts about what I have experienced to this point by clicking on the hot links. As always if you have questions please comment, email or tweet I will do my best to answer.

The system has been on site and in the hands of the kids and I for the past nine days; the good is far outweighing the bad at this point. However, there is plenty of things that I have yet to figure out or apply, rather figured out how to apply. Tomorrow is the first game action, a point in this trial that I am both scared and excited about for the Vector Mouthguards. Time for the bright lights.

I am not scared or apprehensive about the overall performance of the data that I have been seeing thus far. One thing that I can firmly state at this point is that the perceived accuracy and consistency of impacts below 50g is all that I hoped and more. As the practices have progressed and I have reviewed the hitting drills by film, the hits of the interior lineman and linebackers seem to show on almost every play where there is full effort. This would match up with my line of thinking about football (as a reminder I have my system set up to report impacts of 10g or greater), this is a collision sport. I guess at this point I wonder if I am collecting a lot of “noise” in the system because the amount of hits it is recording. I do want to see the overall number of hits collected by the kids but if the 10-20g range of linear impacts are doing nothing other than that, it makes me think. On the other side I do want to have that data in case a kid were to be injured and it was a very low threshold.

The not so awesome thing at this time is the frequency of the anomalies I have seen. The last number I remember seeing for total hits that the system had captured was nearly 2,000 (4o players for 8 days of practice, about 6/player/day) and that number seems about right to me. But, the real issue is of that nearly 2,000 data set there are 12 hits that have exceeded 80g on the monitor and none of them “looked” like an 80g hit on film, in fact some there was no contact. Granted this can happen with technology, some part of an algorithm that didn’t weed out this report. Upon review I was able to identify four of these instances: one was previously mentioned with a player yelling (I have since reboiled the mouthguard and have not seen from that sensor), one was a player whipping out his mouthguard and kicking it while it still had some spit on it, and the other two were the cause of a coach tapping – rather slapping – the mouthguard on the helmet after taking it out of a players mouth to mess with me. In regards to the last two instances the good thing is that this only happens one time because the mouthgurad deactivates when the slobber is off.

Continue reading

Practical Application of Data: VMG

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 Continue reading

Seeing Is… Starting… To Believe (Video Link)

Inside DrillWith one day of the Vector Mouthguards in the book – a lightning shortened one – and a warp speed implementation it was time to get this puppy up and running.

The players had not lost a mouthguard overnight, which is quite amazing because they always seem to lose their other ones, and all were on the chargers overnight. The clock struck 5:30 and it was go-time. The antenna receiver on the sidelines and players not wondering what it was going to feel like, just getting to practice.

As the system fired up the tiny computers in their helmets were reporting to my laptop, one green light after the other, it was working as promised. A few of the mouthguards took a minute to “warm up” with spit, I guess, but when it was time to hit I had nearly all on-line. Of the 40 issued, 32 were communicating with 2 of them on injured personnel (not concussion), we will get more in-depth about that later.

As practice started I did not want to be tethered to the computer so I could do my job as an athletic trainer so I left the base station and went about my business. The way our coach practices is in five-minute segments, flying around. It is high intensity and constant moving on my part to keep a keen eye on where it is needed and on who it is needed. I basically forgot it was over there other than the occasional parent or media asking what that “radar” looking thing was.

At the first water break I stepped over to see the computer and the hits it had captured. I was able to scroll through all the registered hits in about two seconds and only stopped on any that were above 40g. The graph like output of the system makes this a breeze. I also had noted that every hit is time stamped so when there was a hit that I thought should be captured I made note of the time and cross referenced that in the system, and yes they were there.

As the team went to a segment with inside run drill work it happened to be next to my base station for filming purposes. I yelled up to the camera operator and asked if the film time stamps and he said no. Because I had two students with me I was able to hold the tablet and look at that between reps. After every play the screen changed with more impacts; the DL, LB and RB getting the lions share of the notices. I was impressed at the speed and accuracy of the information given to me in real-time. But, one of the LB’s who was delivering the hits on D was also rotating on O as a RB and his mouth guard was not communicating, I was a bit concerned. Was this really going to keep the data in the mouthguard until it was able to communicate, like they promised? Was I going to miss out on some of his hits. And just then…  He was smashed by the defense right to the left earhole. He was none worse for wear but it was a noteworthy hit as the team yelled out due to the collision like all other teams do when that happens. He was just fine and I didn’t even take a step towards him.

As practice progressed all was going well, I was taking notes on times of hits and they all looked good and none that I found concerning in viewing them live or on the data. That’s when I scrolled across a player that had taken the largest hit seen, a Continue reading

Vector Mouthguards – Day 1

Don’t get to excited, I don’t think I will give you daily updates about the Vector Mouthguards but I do feel that the first day is important on many fronts, including: customer service, supplies, and ease of use out of “box”.

I had previously met with the kids individually and emailed the parents to open a line of communication about what was coming and what we could expect. I also told everyone about my expectations for this system. I received many questions from the kids that I could easily answer (looks, weight, how it works, “will my braces mess it up?”). The parents really only cared about performance and many were excited about it, even the parents of the kids that were not selected to wear them.

We ended up getting enough money to outfit 40 players so I had so select a group of kids that I thought would be a good cross section for what I wanted to know from this. I chose the following people: all varsity starters on both sides of ball except for QB, the 2’s that would be getting the most work on the scout team, players that would play both JV and Varsity, and the remaining were players that are probably not going to see much action – mainly on their own volition in practice or games (if you know what I mean). Within that group I have 4 players that have previous history of concussion, including two that have multiple concussions in their past. This I feel represents the kids that will see the most possible impact throughout the season.

I received the shipment yesterday and included were the mouthguards (lanyards number stickers), the chargers, a computer, the antenna for the system with a tripod and a carrying case for it. All was set up and ready to rock after getting the players and mouthguards into the system.

Today, Tanner Nussbaum from the Green Bay area drove down to help with the fitting and getting system up and running, and hew as on time and ready with all answers to any questions I had conjured up over night. We had the 40 players meet at 1:30 for fitting and computer inputting with final instructions, the last players were done after an hour and 20 minutes. It all went rather smoothly, minus some Continue reading