Head in the game: High school student invents concussion alert system

Last fall, CNN told the story of North Carolina high school football player Jaquan Waller, who died from "second impact syndrome" after he sustained two head injuries in fewer than 48 hours and returned to the field without receiving clearance from a doctor.

No matter how well-trained coaches are to identify concussions in their youth athletes, some players refuse to report symptoms, either because they do not want to leave the game or they are too proud to admit they have been hurt. Some injuries do not even look serious when they occur. A concussion baseline test could take a long time to come back with conclusive results, so many coaches struggle with how to assess the true nature of a head injury.

With these facts in mind, California high school freshman Braeden Benedict invented a device that alerts coaches immediately if an athlete is likely to have suffered a concussion. Benedict, a football player himself, has endured head injuries of his own and has seen teammates go down with concussions, so he understands the stakes.

"I wanted to come up with something simple and low-cost," Benedict told The Los Angeles Times. "Something that tells you to get out of the game and get checked."

What Benedict came up with is a liquid-filled patch that can be placed on the front of a youth football helmet. When struck with enough force to have likely caused a concussion, the patch releases a red dye, which serves as a red flag for coaches to pull a player from a game to receive further testing.

Coaches can combine products like the one designed by Benedict with high-quality football helmets and a protocol for treating athletes who endure head injuries to reduce instances of compounded health problems resulting from head injuries. While concussions may in some ways be unavoidable, even with the best football equipment, the job of coaches should be to ensure athletes stay off the filed for enough time for them to heal properly.

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