Talented Hokies research brain impacts while battling Aggies

Blacksburg, Va. -- While they were busy overpowering the Texas A&M Aggies on Sept. 18 in Lane Stadium, the Virginia Tech Hokies became the first athletes in the world to test a new brain injury monitoring system.

Every year in the United States, thousands of athletes suffer traumatic brain injuries. Virginia Tech researchers and sports medicine professionals have launched the monitoring project in an attempt to help prevent these injuries.

Stefan Duma, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech and director of the Center for Injury Biomechanics, came up with the idea for the project in February after seeing a presentation about a new type of sensor system that can be used to record impacts to football helmets. The system -- called HITS (head impact telemetry system) -- is manufactured by SIMBEX, a company in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

After talking with SIMBEX president Rick Greenwald about HITS, Duma initiated a collaborative project with Dr. Gunnar Brolinson, the head team physician, and Mike Goforth, head trainer, both of Virginia Tech Sports Medicine.

Over the past six months, the research team has developed a comprehensive study that combines the data from HITS with new methods for clinically evaluating brain trauma. Currently the project is in the pilot stage.

Each of four Hokies' helmets are fitted with six accelerometers, which measure impacts to the helmets in terms of "G" -- or gravity -- forces. During football games, the sensors transmit real-time impact data to a sideline computer system that keeps track of a range of head impact data for each player wearing the HITS sensors.

"Football helmets receive a lot of impacts that will register but that don't indicate injury," said Bill Bussone, Duma's graduate assistant. A fellow player smacking a sensor-equipped helmet might cause the system to show several G forces, for example. What the researchers are hoping to discover is the leve

Contact: Liz Crumbley
Virginia Tech

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