ADI says there is a lot of interest in using high-G accelerometers to detect concussions, with football at the top of the list, although they also cited your statistic that cycling is the biggest cause:
Kudos to the IRL for having a closed loop system between the car and occupant to make the future vehicle chassis and safety equipment better for the driver. This is a great example of how head trauma data collection has progressed and how important the data is for proper diagnose.
Kids and adults playing contact sports (hockey, football, lacrosse, bicycling etc.), even non-contact sports (basketball, soccer, martial arts) and also soldiers in harm's way (for IED blasts) need this type of safety and indication also. Did you know that cycling is by far the #1 helmeted sport for ER visits?)
What hasn't been created yet is a large database to slice and dice the data by age, weight, sex, height, point of hit, etc. A high impact hit to you will not have the same effect on me. It will take a long time (and billions of hits?) to collect enough data to determine effective criteria. But we have to start somewhere, and it seems that the time is upon us that this will happen en masse.
Yes, the NFL has been talking to the IndyCar guys, but they say you need to put the accelerometer inside the ear canal to measure concussions to the football players head--if its on the helmet it just measures stress on the helmet which the padding inside the helmet is designed to prevent being transfered to the head. Unfortunatley, the NFL thought IndyCar's current in-ear design was too big for football players. However, ADI just announced a single chip version of its three-axis high-G accelerometer:
Within a couple months, IndyCar plans to have a much smaller earpiece designed using ADI single-chip three-axis accelerometer, which Horton thinks will be small enough for NFL to start using too. The new earpiece will fit further down in the ear canal for even better coupling to the head, plus it uses about 15-times less power, and so will be possible to battery power, eventually eliminating the need for a hardware umbilical cord connected to the accident recorder black box, in favor of a wireless transmitter in the helmut that sends accelerometer data directly to the crash box using Bluetooth.
Colin, many NFL teams have been using a MEMS based system for analysis for the past several years. Breaking down the various barriers with repect to detection versus diagnosis remains a big issue in getting all of the teams and players on board. The technology is here, deployment is in the works.
Another thing I did not have room to mention in this story, is that in this year IndyCars have a brand new Italian chassis manufactured by Dallara Automobili, which also manufacturers the popular Formula 3 race-car chassis so popular in Europe (Formula 3 is a stepping-stone competition for drivers aspiring to compete in the world famous Formula 1). The new chassis has given IndyCar engineers an opportunity to usher in a whole array of new safety features, such as thicker energy absorbing foam--up from as little as one to about three inches thick behind drivers in the cockpit, improved carbon-fiber tubular struts, and shock attenuators to mitigate the affect of collisions on the vehicle as well as the shock transferred from the vehicle to the driver (especially from whiplash like effects). Also the Dallara chassis moved the shift lever from between the drivers legs to the steering column, to reduce the number of things that can impact the driver during a crash. Dallara also made improvements to the perimeter of the car to mitigate the effect of car-to-car interactions on the track.
Looks like another potentially great benefit from the use of MEMs. When this is correlated with similar uses in other sports, we should start to see some serious amounts of meaningful data. I wonder how long before we will start seeing benefits/use of similar devices for everyday use without helmets, cars, etc.
Hopefully this weekend's Indy 500 race will be accident free, but in the event of a crash the accident recorder will record the concussive forces on the drivers head. IndyCar is keeping a historical database on each driver, and hopes to correlate that will the accumulative effects on head trauma as soon as the sports-medicine associations determine the long-term effects. This historical database will act like a radiation badge that keeps track on long-term "dosages." One thing I did not have room to mention, is that the in-ear sensors resulted from a joint development effort with Indy Car and Delphi Motorsports who makes the accident recorder, which IndyCar calls the crash box. Also there is a second set of three-axis accelerometers inside the crash box. That way the forces on the car can be compared to the forces on the driver's head, which when recreated by the crash sled and crash dummy, enable IndyCar engineers to what-if with different safety features that eliminate damaging G-forces on the drivers head no matter what happens to the car body and frame.