Celtic, SFA and Scottish clubs watch on as breakthrough emerges from head injury research

By Euan Davidson

April 8, 2021

There’s been a breakthrough in research into head injuries and their long-term effects, a cause close to Celtic supporters.

Over recent years, we’ve been left heartbroken. Club legends like Billy McNeill and Stevie Chalmers have succumbed to dementia. Long-term head injuries and their links to football have been explored over recent seasons. Not least by former Celtic great Chris Sutton, and his former team-mate Alan Shearer [BBC].

Sutton, who lost his father to dementia, has spoken up about the need for concussion substitutions in football [Daily Mail]. The SFA gave the green light to temporary subs back in December [SFA], while also banning heading the ball at certain youth levels.

Now, though, there’s a new technology which could help to answer the problem for good. Researchers at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh might have figured out how to reduce the impact of head injuries [Herald].

According to the Herald:

“Start-up company HIT has developed [a] technology at the Edinburgh Business School (EBS) incubator at Heriot-Watt University.

“It features a unique impact sensor, wearable across a range of sports and leisure activities, which can clip onto any helmet or halo headband to detect G-force and record the impact through a companion app.

“This records data using a traffic light system and acts as an early warning for the user about the level of impact force recorded, highlighting the caution required in continued exercise.”

Jeremie Frimpong receives treatment at Celtic Park / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Practical use in Scottish football? Celtic and the SFA will be hoping so

The report continues:

“HIT Impact uses technology to monitor and identify user impact levels during a game in real time, by creating a baseline level of force incurred by the user and tracking impact through their playing time.

“Once the baseline is met, the user is taken off the field to prevent further impacts and can then be assessed using current concussion guidelines to deem their fitness to return to play.”

Led by 28-year-old researcher Euan Bowen, the technology could see more focus on head injuries in the sport. Whether it means players having to wear headbands is another matter. Surely, players would support the idea of wearing such gear if it meant harm reduction in the long-term.

Far too often, we’ve seen the horrifying impacts of head injuries in the game. Research by the University of Glasgow concluded that heading a football was culpable for long-term head injuries [The Week]. The links between heading the ball, a clash of heads and general blunt trauma to the head in football and long-term disease is surely beyond question at this point.

We’ve lost our biggest idols to this problem. Surely Celtic, the SFA and other clubs will be monitoring this with great interest.

Headbands and the like might meet opposition, from critics of “modern football”. Undoubtedly, if introduced, this would change the look of football forever.

But the cost paid by professional footballers is far too high not to investigate this.

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