A significant amount of time and energy has been spent in the past couple of years when it comes to the issue of player safety, and specifically, head injuries.
The University of Nebraska has taken an important and interesting step forward on that subject. The university’s Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior (CB3) has been working on an electrode-covered mesh cap that would act as a functioning MRI on the sidelines. CB3 director Dennis Molfese says the mesh cap, which measures brain waves and can tell within minutes if a player is okay to return to the field or not, is still another one to two years away from use.
The device has gotten the attention of the NCAA as well.
“There are a lot of things that are very important with the NCAA as far as the health and safety of the student-athlete,” NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline said in an interview with the Associated Press, “and concussion is right up there as first and foremost. It’s the elephant on the table, and we, with everyone else, we have to solve it.”
Solutions have been hard to come by. Game rules have been changed to penalize targeting, but that only solves a part of the larger problem.
What Nebraska is doing is fantastic, but the university can’t be alone in taking the lead on these steps and a conference like the Pac-12 can’t be the only one limiting the amount of contact in practice. Concussions are a sports problem, not a Nebraska problem, so the responsibility for member-wide research and, most importantly, practical application falls under the NCAA’s umbrella.
College athletics’ governing body understands that and the NCAA Concussion Task Force was created for that very reason. The problem, as with most NCAA-related items, is the time it takes to accomplish, well, anything. Even getting third party physicians on the sideline could take a while. Still, all athletes have the right to access to the best doctors and equipment possible. They only get one brain, after all.