Lewisburg is one of five Mississippi schools taking part in a season-long pilot program, endorsed by the Mississippi High School Activities Association
When the Lewisburg football Patriots take the field Friday night against Mitchell, the team not only will be tackling the visiting Tigers from Memphis, but also tackling an issue that has become a growing problem in football.
Lewisburg is one of five Mississippi schools taking part in a season-long pilot program, endorsed by the Mississippi High School Activities Association in partnership with X2 Biosystems and the Mind Matters Foundation, an Oxford-based nonprofit that addresses concussion issues in athletics.
X2 Biosystems has provided 10 randomly-selected Lewisburg players its “X-Patch” wearable impact sensors that monitor head impacts and concussion injury risks during practices and games. The sensors are worn in the back of the player’s ear and not able to be seen with the player’s helmet on.
Thomas Dill of Cornerstone Rehabilitation and one of two athletic trainers who work with the Patriots, said the sensors are able to log the location and severity of the impact to a player’s head.
“This tells you where the point of impact is being placed on the head and how hard the impact is that’s coming in,” Dill said. “It’s a great tool for athletic trainers, an adjunct to these applications and these subjective tests. It gives you an extra tool to evaluate these kids for head injuries.”
Meredith Clark, another Cornerstone trainer with the Patriots, said Lewisburg’s selection for the program came on a request from the Mind Matters Foundation executive director Chyna Ward to Cornerstone’s ownership.
“It’s just more education, because we’re seeing so much,” Clark said. “The coaches are more aware, the athletic trainers are more aware based on research and study that’s been done through the National Athletic Trainers Association.”
Dill said about four-million concussion injuries take place on the field each year across the country, adding football and soccer are the top two sports for injuries at the high school level.
Mississippi has become a national leader in addressing the growing problem of head injuries and concussions in participating in the pilot program. Athletic Director Rusty Cagle believes the MHSAA will use data from the program to develop new policies to ensure safety.
“I think the state (MHSAA) is in conjunction with X2 trying to figure out what mandates we can make in regards to practice time,” Cagle said. “How many days in pads, how many days to practice to limit the impact, that kind of thing.”
Another attraction to Lewisburg’s participation, said principal Chris Fleming, is that athletes in all sports at the school will get a baseline test which physicians can use in case of head injury.
“The big thing for me is the baseline testing for all the athletes, not just the ten kids that are on the field,” Fleming said. “If anything happens to any of those kids, they can take that baseline test with the protocol we have in place and go to their doctor. Industry-wide, that’s about a $25-$30 cost and our kids are not having to pay that.”
Dill said the X2 application is the same used in the NFL, Major League Soccer and the Canadian Football League. He added a similar patch is worn by every football player at Ole Miss, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Clark said when a player complains of a headache, the chip is removed and data from the chip will show when the player was hit, where and to what degree was the hit inflicted.
“We can go back and we can look at the number of times one particular player was hit, go back and look at film and take a look at how many times has he taken that hit,” Clark said.
Cagle added the information also becomes a means for better coaching.
“With this, they can show you when a kid is tackling bad,” Cagle said. “They can show you the impact where your head hit another kid. We can use that as a coaching tool.”
But Fleming said the issue is safety for his athletes.
“Our district is constantly being reminded about the biggest goal being safety,” Fleming said. “We’re not just talking about kids being safe today. We’re talking about their health and their safety concerns for 10, 15, 40 years from now.”
The other schools taking part in the program are Gulfport, Booneville, Hattiesburg and Clinton.