Protecting players

The Wilmington High School football team is doing its part in keeping its student-athletes safe this season.

With new technology and a new piece of equipment, Hurricane football players and their parents can feel better about the issue of concussions.

“Football is under attack,” WHS varsity football coach Scott Killen said. “How can we make this safer? With the technology, we might as well jump on board to see if it helps.”

The Riddell Insite system and the Guardian helmet cap are two items WHS is using this fall. Riddell manufactures the helmets used by the Hurricane, and many other football teams.

The Guardian helmet cap is not used in relation to the Riddell Insite system. The Guardian snaps into place over top of the players current helmet and provides additional cushion when there is a blow to the helmet.

“The Guardian is not worn during games; it’s a practice only precaution,” said Kelli Veidt, a Drayer Physical Therapy employee who serves as the head athletic trainer for Wilmington High School.

Wilmington has 50 of the Guardians helmet caps available to use.

The Riddell Insite is a bit more complex. There are three parts to the system, designed to alert the athletic trainer when there is contact to the helmet area.

There are 22 helmets at Wilmington — 13 at the high school level and 9 at the middle school level — with a sensor installed directly into the helmet.

When the helmet is impacted beyond a predetermined threshold based on each player, that sensor sends a message to an alert system. The alert system is a smallish, hand held device that tells the athletic trainer a player or players has been involved in an incident that requires further evaluation.

Each player’s name and number has been inputted into a software system that tracks each incident involving the sensor-installed helmets. The system goes beyond just a simply blow has been struck, though.

“Where there head is, is it up or down, where the contact is (on the helmet), are they even using their head?” Killen said. “The goal is they want to take the head completely out of tackling.”

Veidt said the Riddell Insite is simply “another set of eyes to put in our medical bag.”

“It is not diagnosing the players with a concussion but it is letting me know that the threshold is a little higher than we like,” she pointed out. “At that time, I can assess them, evaluate them. They go through the standard concussion protocol we use for every athlete, then we will move on to the appropriate plan of care … whether they go back in or go see a physician.”

In order for the Riddell Insite system to work properly, a player must be within 50 yards of the alert system held by Veidt.

“We’re lucky,” said Veidt, who has been an athletic trainer for 23 years. “We’re one of the first teams in the surrounding area that has this type of technology to help the kids stay healthy. When I first started, concussions were not what they are today. Studies have since come out that these men who played and got their bells rung and continued to play … the outcomes affect them as they got older. We now see what the outcome is years later and we are going to be proactive to do what we can to get these kids to live a healthy, happy life … to live a normal life. We are going to do everything in our power to keep these kids protected.”

The Riddell Insite system is used by teams in the National Football League as well as the collegiate level, Veidt said.

“We can show the kids where the contact is on their head. Every hit is analyzed,” said Killen. “It’s coming. There are more and more school districts with this. It’s all about how can we make our program safe for the kids and the parents, to put their minds at ease.”

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With head coach Scott Killen (right) looking on, Wilmington High School players with the Guardian helmet cap go through tackling drills during a recent practice session. head coach Scott Killen (right) looking on, Wilmington High School players with the Guardian helmet cap go through tackling drills during a recent practice session. Mark Huber | News Journal Huber | News Journal

An up-close look at the Guardian helmet cap. up-close look at the Guardian helmet cap. Mark Huber | News Journal Huber | News Journal Huber | News Journal
WHS using Riddell Insite, Guardian helmet caps to keep football players safer

By Mark Huber

[email protected]

Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email [email protected] or on Twitter @wnjsports