A few universities are using some high-tech football helmets that record the force of the collisions they sustain.

DeShawn Smith began his football season at Tyee High School in Sea Tac, Washington with a college scholarship in mind. But the fifteen-year-old’s helmet did not prevent the impact of a head-to-head collision from causing bleeding on his brain, and three days later his classmates mourned his death.

According to a July, 2004 report from the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injuries, about 1.5 million junior high and high school students play football in the U.S., with colleges and universities fielding about 75,000 players. Three players died during 2003 as a direct result of injuries suffered on the field, two of which came following severe head injuries.

Now, researchers at Virginia Tech might help figure out where improvements in helmet technology are needed most, using a system called HITS—Head Impact Telemetry System—manufactured by Simbex. The team’s helmets are rigged with tiny sensors called accelerometers, which measure impacts to helmets in terms of “G,” or gravity, forces. During play, the accelerometers sent real-time impact data to a computer system that kept track of the head impact data.

More here.