Hortonville taking technical approach to fighting concussions

Hortonville's football program is using modified helmets with sensors to protect players from possible concussions.

HORTONVILLE "It just has the normal pads like any other helmet," Hortonville athletic trainer Megan Lee said.

But this helmet is not normal. Hortonville has sensors in each helmet to track concussions and if a player receives a big hit it registers on a hand-held device that is with the athletic trainer.

"It is not a definite if they have a concussion, if it registers on the hand-held but it's something that will help us pick up what we might miss or something the kids might not report," Lee said. "There's always that worry that kids want to keep playing and don't report symptoms. It's just another way we can be proactive."

Hortonville is one of two teams in the state with sensors in their helmets to track concussions, the other being Arrowhead. The team says the support it has received from the parents has been terrific.

"They feel better about it; they know we're being proactive about it," Hortonville assistant coach Andy Kolosso said. "That we have their sons' interest in mind and I think they feel better that we're doing this."

"It's nice to feel that we're safe," Hortonville senior Jake Stein said. "The coaches care about us. You'll get called out if you get a big hit. They'll check you and then you can go back in. It's not like a hindrance while we're playing, like, 'Oh, we can't hit hard because we have these sensors in our helmets."

The cost to put sensors in the helmets for the freshmen, junior varsity and varsity teams costs more than $20,000. A steep price, maybe, but worth it.

"We look at it as when we evaluated this as a coaching staff and a school district the administration was so supportive in what we did it's money well spent for us," Kolosso said.

Ashwaubenon and many other schools were approached about the sensors but Ashwaubenon is holding off.

"We decided not to do the sensors at this point until we see more data on how they work and if they work," Ashwaubenon coach Mark Jonas said.

Nevertheless, Kolosso thinks in the near future sensors in helmets will be the norm.

"I think in a few years you'll see it mandated for everybody," Kolosso said.

Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay

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