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Big Game Changers: New Technologies in Healthcare That Provide a Competitive Edge

The American Football arena has always been one where any extra yards gained over the opposition is an advantage. In this rapidly advancing technological age, new innovations in healthcare technology are introduced at a ‘rate of knots’ where ‘today’s’ technology, is already ‘old news’ by tomorrow.

In the current climate, utilizing new medical technology is as important as tactics employed on the football field. One of the challenges for the NFL is balancing the dynamic spirit of innovation while maintaining the games age old traditions, such as fair play. In both the past and present, teams have tried to achieve a competitive advantage over the opposition. This is why the NFL must ensure that the same technology is available for all to use.

The question is how to combine both approaches and is there room for both?

How EHRs have been implemented into the game “without rocking the boat”? 

With recent advances in medical technology, Electronic Medical Records are now used by all 32 teams in the league. EHRs are best known in the healthcare industry. Their primary use is to transfer and store patient information.  However, their use differs in the NFL where EHRs are part of a player’s employment. These medical technologies transfer players’ information when they move to a new team.

Other EHRs designed by eClinicalworks can be integrated with medical, pharmaceutical, imaging and video systems that identify and treat injuries. Similar to EHRs used in medical facilities, the aim is to provide immediate access to medical history without interruption.

Another popular medical technology used on the sideline of a football field is the Concussion Assessment tool. Data from this device can be viewed on a Microsoft Surface table during a game.  This medical innovation has baseline data pre-loaded for all players on a team. This enables the medical team to speedily assess the concussion and identify the appropriate treatment protocol.(http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/nfl-completes-technology-integration) 

How the NFL is using healthcare technology to tackle priorities in the game

One of the shared goals of the National Leagues decision makers and owners, is to minimize the occurrence of head trauma in the game. This has been the main driving force behind many of the NFL’s main initiatives such as “Play Safe, Play Smart”. NFL team owners pledged 100 million towards this program supporting cutting edge medical research and engineering design innovation.(https://www.playsmartplaysafe.com/newsroom/statements/nfl-announces-winners-second-headhealthtech-challenge/)

The issue of preventing head trauma has been the focus of Shawn Spring, CEO of Windpact. Spring has won acclaim for his company’s innovations in healthcare technology, such as The Crash Cloud. This device lines a football helmet minimizing the impact of a collision. Spring says The Crash Cloud is a “… a unique combination of controlled air flow and foam,”. This device combines the functions of an air bag – that distributes energy – and a mattress – that soaks up energy.(http://www.king5.com/article/entertainment/television/programs/evening/seahawk-legend-hopes-to-save-the-game-he-loves/281-506882286)

A similar healthcare innovation, is the ZERO1 Helmet designed by VISCIS. This medical technology was ranked first in its debut year in the NFL/ NFLPA Helmet Laboratory Performance Testing. In its opening year it has been used widely by numerous NFL players. This technology has now been made affordable for other athletes across several sports. One of the unique features of this helmet is the ‘reflex layer’ (positioned below the hard-outside layer). In the case of a collision, “the dozens of columns found in this layer bend, compress, and move which helps absorb much of the incoming force.”
(https://www.digitaltrends.com/outdoors/vicis-zero1-helmet-price-cut/)

The potential for innovative healthcare technology in the NFL 

The NFL trialed radio-frequency identification transmitters, a system designed by Zebra Technologies. In 2014, RFID transmitters were only placed in players shoulder pads. Today, this technology is used to track individual player speed and acceleration and their location on the football field. Teams have been permitted by the NFL to assess their own players’ data, but not other teams’ players. The advantage of RFID technology is it measures each player’s movement individually. This enables the medical professionals to get a more refined picture on the strain put on the limbs and joint-if the pressure gets too much, it could mean injury. (https://operations.nfl.com/the-game/technology/)

Firms such as Motus Global have designed an arm sleeve called MotusQB to compute the capacity of a quarterbacks throwing arm.  Other devices such as Torqlabs employ four mechanisms “on a runners upper and lower legs to measure gait.”

Wearable technology innovations in healthcare 

For all athletes the biggest injury risk is fatigue. Many teams put an emphasis on speeding up their player’s recovery. One firm that is revolutionizing recovery monitoring is WHOOP. This firm has designed a wearable wristband which monitors the strain exerted in workouts, as well as, the effectiveness of players’ recovery after resting.  A similar firm PUSH has an innovative medical design that pools physiological tests with questions. This set of questions is focused on assessing a player’s readiness to train or to play.

Another innovative healthcare technology is Armour’s Record Equipped running shoes. These running shoes come with built-in sensors that assess a player’s level of fatigue based on the athlete’s effectiveness in a jump test.
(https://www.si.com/nfl/2017/08/30/nfl-technology-whats-new-2017-season)

New medical innovation is changing the way the game is played and understood. The NFL has attempted to avoid one team seeking a competitive advantage over another. However, this is impossible to prevent as the NFL would need to constantly watch the movement of every team. It is not even a question as to whether a dynamic spirit of innovation can thrive with traditional values. Just as long as rules governing fair competition are firmly established. It is also important that teams value a competitive spirit rather seeking an underhand competitive advantage.

To learn more about the latest innovations in medical technology or find the healthcare industry’s Most Valuable Players, you need to call Merraine Group.  With two decades of experience and placements made at over 600 healthcare systems, Merraine’s talent scouts know what it takes to recruit an outstanding team that will keep on winning.  http://www.merraine.com/contact-us/

By: Jonathan Gordon

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