Helmets protect Viking gridders after hits as well as during them

Ryan Geraghty, athletic trainer at Huntington North High School, examines one of the football team’s helmets equipped with the Riddell InSite Impact Response System during a practice at Kriegbaum Field on Thursday, Aug. 31. The system keeps the training and coaching staffs informed of players’ wellbeing via signals transmitted from the helmets to a monitor on the sideline in the event of a hard hit.
Ryan Geraghty, athletic trainer at Huntington North High School, examines one of the football team’s helmets equipped with the Riddell InSite Impact Response System during a practice at Kriegbaum Field on Thursday, Aug. 31. The system keeps the training and coaching staffs informed of players’ wellbeing via signals transmitted from the helmets to a monitor on the sideline in the event of a hard hit. Photo by Steve Clark.

Originally published Sept. 7, 2017.

Traditionally, helmets just protect football players during a hit.

The helmets at Huntington North High School, though, protect players after hits, too.

The school’s football team is in its second year utilizing the Riddell InSite Impact Response System. Helmets are equipped with sensors that register the impact of hits. If a player sustains a hit that exceeds a prescribed threshold, an alert is sent to a handheld monitor possessed by the training staff on the sideline. The alert states the player’s name, jersey number and position, along with the time and date the hit occurred.

“We’ll call him over, they’ll give him a check,” says the team’s head coach, Rich Burnau, referring to the training staff. “If he’s good to go, then he’s good to go back in the game.”

A player’s hit threshold is determined by their age and position. That information is programmed into their helmet, along with their name and number.
Training staff members upload the data collected by the helmets to a player management database, which enables them to track the number of hits players take over the course of a season.

Huntington North has 41 Riddell InSite helmets in service, with 15 more in reserve.

“Most of our kids on a Friday night will have them,” says Burnau. “We’ve trickled down to even the freshmen having some as well.”

Huntington North Athletic Trainer Ryan Geraghty is a fan of how the helmets enable him and his assistants to keep an eye on the entire team, even when their attention is elsewhere.

“… It’s those plays where the ball’s on one side of the field and someone gets hit down here, now we’re watching where the ball is and this kid might get hit and it sets off the sensor and we can check him out,” he says.

In addition to keeping players safe, the helmets can also be used for educational purposes in conjunction with video from the team’s practices.

“So, let’s say it goes off during practice,” says Burnau. “It tells us the specific time. We can go back in practice and see what that kid did. Did he drop his head? Was he tackling at a different angle than he should’ve been?

“So, we can use it as a teaching tool as well.”

The helmets’ most important function, though, is simply keeping the coaching and training staffs abreast of players’ wellbeing, in a more immediate and informative way than ever before.

“It’s another step in us trying to keep these kids as safe as possible,” says Burnau. “It’s not a concussion prevention, by any means. But it’s a measure of us making sure our kids are safe when they’re out there.”