Partnering with Riddell in concussion study a great move for ASU football

There are many moments when I am proud to call myself a Sun Devil, and one of those moments came Thursday morning when ASU football announced it would be the first college football program to partner with Riddell in a concussion detection study.

ASU and its fans should be proud of this announcement and pleased that the University is leading the way in concussion research, but they should also be saddened that other college programs haven't done this already.

The study, which will also involve the Translational Genomics Research Institute, is the first of its kind and the first partnership with a college football program in a concussion research study.

Sensors that communicate with the Riddell Sideline Response System to measure the effects of sub-concussive hits will be installed in players' helmets.

Researchers will use that data to determine if those hits are identifiable through blood-based molecular information.

That information, referred to as biomarkers, can be tested in blood, saliva and urine samples that will be collected throughout the season to supplement the real-time data collected from the helmet sensors.

Compiling data over the course of the season will help researchers see the changing molecular information for each player.

Assistant media relations director Thomas Lenneberg said TGen, which is a local company, approached the University with this technology and Riddell stepped in to volunteer the sensors.

Football is a dangerous sport. We’ve always known that.

However, in the past, only the visible injuries like broken legs or torn ACLs were given much attention. In the past few years, though, head injuries have gained media attention and are regarded as a serious problem.

Learning how to properly detect and prevent concussions is the next big hurdle for football to overcome at all levels.

The biomarker data gathered by researchers from this study will hopefully help them clear that hurdle.

Lenneberg said the study likely won’t have any short-term impact, but that somewhere down the line, it might help medical officials come up with better ways to detect the presence and severity of concussions.

Granted, the helmet sensor system has been around for several years now and, according to Lenneberg, has been employed by other universities throughout the nation.

This is the first study that will incorporate the real-time sideline data and the biomarker information, and it baffles me that college football has not pushed for this sooner.

I mean, the concussion problem isn’t a new thing in football. This has been a prevalent and much-discussed issue for years now, and this is the first time any college football program has tried something like this?

I’m proud of ASU for seizing the chance to join this study, even though the results won't be pretty and will probably be very controversial.

We’re probably going to hear a lot about how concussions are much more wide-spread than we thought, that hits to the head are more prevalent and more damaging than we thought and that the current helmet technology isn’t doing enough to prevent concussions.

Maybe that’s why other college teams didn’t get involved sooner. Maybe they didn’t want to stir the pot. Maybe they just wanted to keep players in the games until their symptoms were totally obvious.

But concussions aren’t like other injuries, in that you can hide them. You can’t hide a broken leg or a torn muscle. And with the exception of Terrell Owens in the Super Bowl back in 2004, you can’t play on a broken leg.

But you can hide a concussion. You can play with a concussion.

We’ve heard numerous accounts from NFL players past and present claiming to lie to pass concussion tests and play through the injury.

The only way we can properly detect, prevent and treat concussions is by studying when and how they happen.

This study with TGen and Riddell is going to help ASU and the rest of football find that out.

I’m not saying this study is going to solve the concussion problem, but it is a step in the right direction, and ASU should be proud to be the first to take that step.


Reach the columnist at or follow him on Twitter @icbeck21

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