Pottsville hopes to purchase more of the systems in years to come, eventually getting one in every helmet
Concussions are one of the major injuries a high school student-athlete can sustain while playing football.
The Pottsville Area School District unveiled one of the steps it’s taking to reduce that risk Thursday afternoon.
Prior to its scrimmage with Allentown Central Catholic, district officials held a brief press conference to detail the purchase of new Riddell Speed helmets for the football program.
As part of the purchase, 30 of the helmets will be equipped with the state-of-the-art Riddell InSite Impact Response System that measures impacts to the head and alerts trainers and doctors immediately when a significant single or multiple hits occur.
The technology includes alert monitors that are carried by the trainers and coaching staff during the game, and computer software that will be located in the academic center that will compile the data so it can be used to assign equipment or make other preventive safety measures for that player.
The project, which cost more than $45,000, was partially funded by the Crimson Tide Football Boosters and the Pottsville Mothers Football Boosters.
“We want to make sure we invest and do everything we can to keep all our student-athletes safe,” Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey
Zwiebel said. “With the focus on concussions and the effects years down the road … we can’t prevent concussions, however we can do all we can to lessen the severity of those injuries when and if they occur. This InSite is a perfect piece of equipment to do that.
“Technology, it’s in everything we utilize. We’re incorporating technology more and more into our schools. Why wouldn’t we do the same thing to protect our student-athletes?”
Athletic director Eric Rismiller conducted the press conference, held behind the William “Bill” Flynn Press Box at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Zwiebel, school board member Scott Krater, head football coach Tom McGeoy, athletic trainer Dan Slotterback, assistant trainer James Lord, activities treasurer/assistant athletic director Scott Mattea and Riddell sales representative Jarrad Brennan were in attendance, along with members of the Crimson Tide Football Boosters.
Rismiller said the project began when the school district realized its football helmets had fallen from a five-star rating to a three-star rating.
After each season, every school in Schuylkill County sends several of its helmets to be reconditioned due to wear and tear, and purchases a small number of helmets to replace ones damaged beyond repair.
When Rismiller and the athletic committee examined the Pottsville helmets after last season, they decided to purchase all new helmets for every player in grades 7-12, which amounts to roughly 180 helmets.
“The athletic committee discovered our helmets were no longer were a five-star rating, according to a Virginia Tech study,” Rismiller said. “We felt it was important to get our kids a newer product, more state-of-the-art.
“We know that there’s nothing that prevents head injuries, but we want the best possible product we can get.”
The Pottsville Area School District solicited bids from Shutt, which provided the Pottsville helmets in previous years, and Riddell.
When Riddell presented its InSite program for concussions, the district felt that was the way to go.
“We wanted to get some of the units first,” Krater said. “We knew we couldn’t put one in every helmet, but we wanted to get enough.
“It’s the first time in 10 years we went out and purchased new helmets for everybody,” Krater added. “We wanted to purchase helmets for all the players, not just varsity or JV.”
The Riddell InSite Impact Response System contains three parts — the player unit, the alert monitor and the computer software.
The player unit goes inside the liner of the helmet and includes five sensor pads. The pads measure impacts based on the HITS (Head Impact Telemetry System), which has impact thresholds based on level (youth, high school, college, professional) and position.
If a certain threshold is met during impact, it sends an alert to the monitor and the computer software. The monitor displays the player’s number, player’s name and player’s position.
The thresholds were determined based on research that collected more than 2 million impacts since 2003.
Once an alert goes off, trainers and coaches will pull that player from the game and go through the normal concussion protocol that would be applied to any player suspected of having a concussion. It doesn’t mean that player has a concussion, but it signals trainers that the player was hit hard enough to sustain a concussion.
The trainers will then examine the player for a concussion and make a determination from that point.
Slotterback said that any player who has had a concussion, concussion-like symptoms or anything like that will get an InSite installed in their helmet and be tracked.
“It’s not only a benefit for me, but for the coaches as well,” Slotterback said. “I can’t see everything, the doctor can’t see everything. With this, you don’t miss anything. If we’re on the field, and this goes off, we know to pull the kid off. It’s like we have eyes on the field.
“We’re always watching, but now we have this to help us even more.”
Pottsville is the only school in Schuylkill County to include the Riddell InSite system in its helmets. The only other school in eastern Pennsylvania to have it is Stroudsburg.
According to Erin Griffin, director of corporate communications for Riddell, more than 25 colleges in all divisions across the country and roughly 400 programs in age brackets ranging from youth to the college level use InSite.
She said Riddell is the only helmet-maker that features a concussion system like InSite.
“It’s designed to really serve two purposes,” Griffin said by telephone from Illinois. “The first being the alert and monitor part of the technology. It alerts the sideline to a significant impact or series of impacts that has put the player in risk of increased injury.
“The second is the coaching tool of the technology. If a player repeatedly is getting alerts, maybe he is engaging in a practice that is putting them in risk. Maybe it’s the way a defensive player tackles. Hopefully it provides information the coaching staff can use to reteach proper technique.”
Each InSite system cost $150, with the monitors and software coming free as part of the bidding process.
Pottsville hopes to purchase more of the systems in years to come, eventually getting one in every helmet.
“Obviously, the goal in a couple of years is to have one in each helmet. The end game is to have one for everybody,” Krater said.
“Talking to several people, this is the wave of the future,” Rismiller said. “I think all helmets will have this eventually.”