MT. ZION– With concussions and brain injuries becoming more of a concern for football players across all levels nationwide, Mt. Zion High School’s athletic department is taking some extra steps to meet those concerns head on.
This season, when the Mt. Zion football team takes the field, 40 of their players are doing so with special mouth guards that allow athletic trainer Dustin Fink to track each and every time they are hit or their heads are disturbed.
Fink says this season the athletic department purchased 40 Vector mouth guards from i1 Biometrics that allows him, and the coaching staff to keep better track of their players, “Player safety is a huge thing for me and for the school district and I feel like being the first school in Illinois to adopt these mouth guards will make us trailblazers in a way.”
The mouth guards are equipped with an ESP chip that transmits the magnitude and location of the impact to a head in real time to an iPad, iPhone, or laptop that Fink carries with him on the sideline. In addition to the mouth guard information, Fink says Mt. Zion is also equipped with a video system that tracks each play, which he can watch back on the sideline.
“The overall goal here is to protect our players from not only in game injuries but also long term issues that come with being hit in the head over and over again,” Fink adds. “I am thankful that our athletic department saw the value in this and just with the information I’ve gotten over the last couple of weeks, I would say it’s already paid off.”
Mt. Zion is the only high school in the state of Illinois to be equipped with the Vector pieces; the company has focused mainly on the college level since they began development of the product back in 2006.
While the athletic department made the initial investment this year, Fink says he hopes that parents and players will begin to see the benefits and the program can expand next year.
Right now, each Vector mouth guard is covered by a full warranty for up to a year and at $200 apiece they are still a little pricey. Fink says he thinks people will start to see the benefits and will see the purchase as a wise investment, “This is another tool for my toolbox but it also opens up the discussion of concussions and long term head trauma between myself and my players and myself and our parents. When I show parents the data that I’ve collected I think many of them are shocked by what they see.”
While the focus on head trauma has been on the NFL, Fink says that concussions are just as, if not more, prevalent in high school an college. According to CBS News, all football players have a 75% chance of suffering a concussion, between 136,000 and 300,000 sustain one each year.
“I can’t say this enough that this is about our player’s safety,” Fink added. “These mouth guards allow us to see in real-time the effects that singular hits to the head, and what hits to the head over time can do to a player. We think we are on the forefront of player safety here at Mt. Zion.”
At 3 and 0 on the season, the Braves are next in action Friday as they take on Mattoon at Mattoon.