The Sports Legacy Institute’s Chris Nowinski announced a program to decrease football collisions to the head by a third through “a pitch count for the brain.” The announcement of the Hit Count program came at the NFL’s Super Bowl week hotel headquarters on Monday.
The project relies on small impact sensors placed in football helmets to gauge the force and number of hits endured by youth and high school football players. Calling the technology “fantastic,” Nowinski relayed that his Hit Count program employing the digital diagnostic tools would “prevent long-term brain damage in athletes.”But until Breitbart Sports inquired about the financial support the various companies marketing helmet sensors have awarded Nowinski’s Sports Legacy Institute, and the paid consulting that Nowinski provided one such company–MC10, started by his college roommate, Isaiah Kacyvenski –the various financial conflicts of interest inherent in the partnership between the nonprofit and the various for-profits never came up.
So how much did Nowinski make from the consulting deal? Despite a direct question asking just that, no direct answer was forthcoming. Nowinski affirmed that he served as a paid consultant to one of the groups involved in his Hit Count program. He also affirmed in a discussion after the program that various impact-sensor businesses had contributed funds to his Sports Legacy Institute.
Various companies, including Reebok, market the gizmos for $149. The added cost to heavy equipment, field maintenance, and insurance burdens will prove one challenge for the acceptance of the devices. The other unknown is whether or not they do what they purport to do: prevent concussions.The goal of the Hit Count program is to establish standards regulating the number of hits contact-sport athletes endure.
“In terms of how this is structured, the companies sign–they do certification tests, there’s a certification contract,” Nowinski detailed. “That’s run through a subsidiary of SLI–the Smarter Sports Association, that’s a 501(c) 6. They sign a licensing agreement for Hit Count. And those contract deals are confidential.”
But Nowinski’s attempt to certify helmet sensors may meet resistance by the group that certifies helmets. Last summer, the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) announced that any helmet receiving modifications, such as with a helmet sensor, would have its certification voided. In other words, any sensor winning approval from Nowinski’s group would automatically mean the football helmet that it’s attached to would lose its approval from the NOCSAE group his SLI co-founder Robert Cantu has served as vice president for seventeen years.
Danny Crossman, cofounder of Shockbox helmet sensors, points out that facemasks, mouth guards, decals, and other appendages alter helmets after manufacture without NOCSAE voiding certification. “Does that seven ounce sensor that’s only a quarter-inch thick effect that helmet?” Crossman asks. “The answer is no it doesn’t.”