New technology could help better analyze concussions in kids

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PITTSBURGH - A tool that’s being tested here in Pittsburgh could bring peace of mind to parents with children who play sports.

"We hear a lot about football, almost on a daily basis," said Dr. Anthony Kontos of UPMC.  “But hockey's really stayed out of it, especially on the youth level."

Hockey can be just as violent and dangerous.

A concussion sidelined Penguins captain Sidney Crosby for months, and it’s something that a few Central Catholic High School hockey players have experienced.

"First one, I got a pretty nasty hit to the head," said Kellen Carlton.

"One time, I was skating across the ice and was blind-sided. I was out cold," said Henry Sacchini.

"There's really not that much known about the impacts to the head in hockey," explained Dr. Kontos.

That’s why he is excited to help lead a study on concussions and hockey.

It’s the first of its kind. UPMC and helmet-maker Bauer are teaming up to look at young players, ages 12-17.

Channel 11’s David Johnson (@DavidWPXI) caught up with researchers as they were attaching sensors to helmets of Central Catholic players.

When a player is hit, the sensor lights up and it registers, almost immediately, on a mobile device.

It measures both force and direction, and Dr. Kontos said that will provide better understanding of hard head hits.

"Where you see that player's head rotate really rapidly as they get checked or maybe as they go into the boards or fall on the ice. And we think that's really important to get those forces as well," he said.

According to UPMC Sports Medicine, 1 in 10 high school athletes who play contact sports, like hockey, will suffer a concussion this year.

One hockey mom hopes the sensor study helps reduce those numbers.

"I think this is fabulous technology. I think this is going to help a lot to improve the safety of the sport," said Ann Freyvogel.