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No concussion sensors for 2015

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The league has delayed implementation of technology which could allow them to better monitor concussions.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL announced it will forgo the implementation of a potentially groundbreaking concussion technology until irregularities and bugs are worked out, according to Steve Fainaru of ESPN.

Specifically, several members of the league's medical advisory committee had hoped to install "concussion sensors" into player's helmets, a technology already seeing regular use at the collegiate level.  The in-helmet sensors measure force, as well as where the force was applied on the helmet, providing a baseline estimation of how much damage was done to a player's head.  Anything registering over 98 g forces will alert the medical staff of any potentially harmful side affects.

Impact sensors could be another step in the right direction for the league's crusade against head injuries, as the ability to test players in an immediate, on-field manner would likely act to reduce the overall number of concussions.

Some medical experts, however, remain skeptical.  Several members of the concussion committee point to flaws in the abilities of the sensors when presented with an on-field collision.  With the accuracy of the devices called into question, further testing will be necessary to determine the external validity of the sensors.

Officials at Virginia Tech, a school currently using concussion sensors, posits the validity and reliability of the sensors has existed for years, and they can be a valuable tool for treating concussions, as well as preventing further damage to the head.

Although the NFL has rejected concussion sensors (for now) for a lack of reliability and the player's association feels the new technology can negatively affect players in games (such as being forcibly removed with no concussion), the implementation of impact sensors seems all but inevitable.  Last year, a joint study conducted by Harvard and Boston University found that concussions are under-reported nearly 80% of the time.  Many have speculated Patriots WR Julian Edelman played much of the Super Bowl with a concussion, while the Steelers garnered criticism when it seemed improper protocol was administered following vicious hits to both Ben Roethlisberger and Heath Miller in the AFC Wildcard round.  With a technological system all but eliminating players' ability to mask symptoms, the rate of concussions probably wouldn't be affected, but long-term, concussion related brain injuries could be avoided.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has become the de facto "trademark" disease plaguing the typical NFL retiree.  Since CTE has been observed in individuals with a history of multiple concussions, the addition of a technology which could negate a players' early return would be a beneficial tool for their long-term health.

Impact and concussion sensors won't make their way into the helmets of NFL players in the 2015 season, but don't count on them being absent too much longer.