PITTSBURGH - The same padding used to protect Ben Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch and James Harrison from hard hits is now being tested by student athletes at an Allegheny County high school.
Quaker Valley freshman Aubrey Bouchard missed nearly four months of school with two concussions playing sports.
“(There was) dizziness, (I was) not able to concentrate,” she said of her injury.
Nellie Kraus, coach of the girls’ lacrosse team at Quaker Valley High School, was so concerned about concussions, her team became part of a pilot program to test a new Kevlar composite headband.
“I see girls with symptoms of concussions on a weekly basis,” she said.
There are no helmets in girls’ lacrosse but Kraus said the play can get pretty physical.
“There's multiple properties going on in the composite that enables us to absorb anywhere from up to 50 percent of the impact,” Rob Vito, CEO of Unequal Technologies said while showing Channel 11 the padding.
Unequal Technologies is a Pennsylvania company that created the Band, an adjustable protective headband.
“It conforms to the body. It's flexible and malleable, but it can stop a truck,” Vito said.
“In practice I got hit in the head with a stick and I was thankfully wearing my headband that could have been my third concussion,” said Bouchard.
When the girls first got the Band, they were a quarter of an inch thick.
They told company leaders they were too uncomfortable, so Unequal went back to the drawing board and readjusted.
Now, the Band is one-eighth of an inch thick.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 4 million sports-related concussions are reported each year, the majority at the high school level.
Studies show children’s brains require more recovery time than adult brains after injury.
Dr. Joe Maroon has seen countless concussions as neurosurgeon at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
He said while nothing can prevent a concussion, he believes this padding will make a difference.
“I think the technology that we're seeing today is a step forward in giving the girls some protection,” said Dr. Maroon.
Critics argue Bands and helmets would make the game more aggressive, but Kraus sees it as a compromise.
“I don't want to wait for a tragedy,” she said.
The Band is designed for other sports, including soccer, basketball and volleyball.
For more information, go to www.unequal.com.