In the heat of competition, athletes are known to play through pain and injuries.
But a new device developed by Reebok International Ltd. and MC10 of Cambridge automatically signals the possibility of dangerous head injuries by lighting up when an athlete takes a serious jolt.
The CheckLight debuted last summer and has been adopted by sports teams around the country.
The system, which retails for $149.99, includes a body sensor inside a spandex skullcap. A small LED screen dangles at the back of the neck. The screen lights up on impact, turning yellow in the case of a moderate blow or red after more severe hit.
The alerts are based on standards developed by the National Transportation Safety Board for determining the potential injury from a head impact.
The device is not a diagnostic tool and does not prevent head injuries. But the companies say the CheckLight can warn coaches, trainers, and parents on the sidelines that an athlete suffered a strong blow to the head and may need attention.
The companies outfitted the seventh-grade Wayland-Weston football team with the device and monitored players’ responses last year. Elyse Winer, a spokeswoman for MC10, says that in addition to its safety function, the CheckLight also became a training tool.
“What was most exciting was that in order to avoid triggering a light and going out of the game, the athletes started to keep their heads up and out of impact during tackles,” Winer said. “That’s a safer tackling technique that coaches and parents have been trying to teach.”
The medical community continues to raise serious concerns about head injuries, especially concussions that can lead to brain trauma. Studies show high school and college football players may suffer 800 or more powerful blows to the head in a season. But there is also a widespread culture of ignoring head injuries in sports, and medical experts fear many concussions go undiagnosed.
Winer said MC10 and Reebok will debut a CheckLight headband, meant for athletes who play sports without helmets, such as soccer, this summer.