Sports – Sleepy Hollow Juniors Spearhead Mouthguard Study for Concussions

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by Zoe Kaplan

Concussions are a serious issue. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention claims that there are over 1.5 million concussions each year, with above 5% of athletes experiencing a concussion every sports season.

In order to combat this growing problem, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino created the Westchester County Concussion Task Force. This force, initiated last year, aims to “develop a model program for managing the full spectrum of sports-related concussions.” The group of 26 medical, academic, and sports professionals has created “10 Best Practices” to use when dealing with sports-related concussions. They have traveled to schools across the County to raise awareness of their program and help local school sports individuals implement their practices.

While the task force is hard at work, students at Sleepy Hollow High School are taking matters into their own hands. Like other schools, Sleepy Hollow has had its own share of concussions: 12 student/athlete concussions between the recent fall and winter seasons. Now that the spring season has started, two lacrosse teammates have demonstrated their interest in the situation.

David Friedman and Jack Weitzner are juniors and proud members of the Sleepy Hollow Boys Varsity Lacrosse team. While they work hard on the field, they are also dedicated students during the day; their science research project is about concussions, titled “Evaluating Head Accelerations in Men’s Varsity Lacrosse.”

The students received a donation from i1 Biometrics, a company focused on researching impact in sports. They were granted 20 Vector mouthguards with a sideline receiver and software system. These aren’t ordinary mouthguards; they contain accelerometers that measure the magnitude of impacts a player’s head receives. They are activated by saliva and start recording data once they come into contact with a player’s teeth. Because they are worn on the upper jaw, head movement can be recorded as the mouth and jaw move together. Whatever data the mouthguard picks up is received by the sideline receiver, which transfers the information to a secure database.

Friedman and Weitzner have received enthusiastic participation and interest from their teammates. They plan to continue their study until the end of the season. Sleepy Hollow Athletic Director Chuck Scarpula said the study is “a great opportunity for the players, as well as a terrific and absolutely necessary idea.” Scarpula has high hopes for the team this year, coached by Gary Devico.

“As long as they give their all, have positive experience, and coaches work hard – win, lose, or draw, it’s a good year.”

As for the students, they are excited to gain results from the study. While they aren’t working on concussion prevention, they hope to help raise awareness of the growing issue. Weitzner said, “Through our study, David and I hope to educate players, coaches, and parents on the inherent risks of playing lacrosse.”

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