New hi-tech sports gear detects damaging blow to head

Reebok Checklight is designed for use in all helmeted and non-helmeted contact sports.
Photo / Reebok
Reebok Checklight is designed for use in all helmeted and non-helmeted contact sports. Photo / Reebok

Sports apparel company Reebok is entering the tech world, developing computerised headwear that can detect when an athlete has sustained a damaging blow to the head.

The Reebok CheckLight consists of a small sensor - about the size of a $2 coin - that sits in a pouch on the back of a skull-hugging cap.

The sensor contains a gyroscope and an accelerometer, which work in tandem to constantly track head movements.

When there is a sudden jolt, indicative of a blow to the head, a small set of traffic lights turns from green to yellow or red, depending on its severity.

The gadget, on display at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, is designed to fit under gridiron helmets, but Reebok product engineer Keith Stern told AAP it would be equally feasible in rugby.

He said Reebok had started discussions to bring the technology to Australia, but a number of regulatory issues needed to be resolved.

"It's targeted at youths especially," he said. "Parents can leave their kids at training and tell the coaches to look out for any changes in the lights.

"Guys often don't want to admit they got hit, or don't know that they've been hit," he added. "They want to be tough."

The long-term effects of repeated concussions have come under greater scrutiny in recent years, especially in American football; several players have taken the National Football League to court over claims they were not adequately protected during their playing careers.

Repeated concussions have been linked to the development of brain diseases such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which can cause mood changes and memory loss.

The CheckLight retails for US$150 (NZ$180).

* Paddy Wood travelled to Las Vegas courtesy of LG.

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