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Could sensor technology determine the future of the NFL?

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There’s something about football that enamors America. While other countries go crazy for soccer — and baseball is technically “America’s Pastime” — there’s no debating the fact that football is this country’s sport of choice. From the thousands of small high schools spread across the nation to the $7.3 billion operation that is the National Football League, it’s clear that football is as much a cultural force as it is a sport.

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Part of what makes football so appealing is the rare combination of art and violence. On the one hand, it takes incredible talent to kick a football through a goal post at 50-plus yards or to catch a football with one hand while being guarded by two other players. On the other hand, it’s gut wrenching to watch a 315-pound lineman take a quarterback down like a lion on a zebra.

It’s this latter portion of the game that draws viewers in, but has league officials worried. As you may know, the NFL is currently facing allegations related to concussions and brain damage. And, while the league’s rabid fan base isn’t going anywhere soon, commissioner Roger Goodell and his associates know that something must be done sooner rather than later.

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There’s a lot going on behind the scenes of the concussion research issue. Some of it is good, and other parts are bad, but one tiny piece of technology has managed to fixate itself squarely in the middle: sensors.


In April 2015, the NFL reached a $900 million class action lawsuit settlement with thousands of former players based on the league’s alleged attempts to hide the risks of concussions in order to keep players on the field. Each of the 5,000-plus players in the lawsuit will be awarded as much as $5 million for medical conditions related to head trauma sustained while playing in the league.

With so much money being poured into this issue, the NFL has reached the conclusion that something must be done. So, during the 2014 offseason, it was reported that all 32 teams could be using concussion sensors by as early as the 2015 season.

The role of sensors in the NFL is fragmented and controversial at the moment. The league recognizes the value of the technology, but selfishly wants to control the direction of it. You can argue the ethics behind the league’s choices to permit or avoid sensors, but you certainly can’t debate the fact that these tiny devices will play a role in the future progression of the league.

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