Next summer, the U.S. women’s national soccer team will take the international stage to compete for a World Cup title. And to ensure that the team has its greatest chance of winning in Canada, all-time goal scorer Abby Wambach is already preparing her head for play.
Wambach, known for her timely headers and dominant aerial game, will be wearing a TriaxSIM-P (Smart Impact Monitor) headband during her training leading up to competition. The headband has a sensor that counts and scores each head impact while a player is on the field, providing immediate information to minimize the potential risk of concussions.
The Triax technology is the first of its kind to earn hit-count certification by the Sports Legacy Institute, a non-profit organization devoted to solving the concussion crisis. The Triax devices are a new advancement in hopes of supporting long-term player health and safety, complete with training and educational initiatives.
“For me, information is gold” Wambach says. “The more information I have the better I can play and the more prepared I can be, especially for the World Cup next summer.”
Early in her career, the two-time Olympic gold medalist was not taught the risk and dangers of head injury. Though she has only suffered one concussion in her career, she said she has felt an added level of preparation and security while wearing the device. Wambach is now teaming with Triax to raise awareness of the issue and keep all athletes as safe as possible.
“This technology is also great because it appeals to people that aren’t on a soccer field,” Wambach says. “It appeals to cheerleaders, football players, it keeps kids safer, and it keeps pro athletes like myself safer. It’s another useful and helpful tool for anyone who wants to engage in any impact sport.”
Chris Nowinski understands the need for people of all ages to be educated about concussions. He co-founded the SLI when a particularly devastating concussion forced him to retire from WWE wrestling. But even before that, as a football player at Harvard University, he was not properly educated about the dangers of head injury.
“Your body really works against you,” Nowinski says. “All of these symptoms that seem super mild, like a headache or feeling foggy, are actually a brain injury. Until someone tells you that, you don’t realize it. The younger you are the more you think having a headache after a football game is normal, when actually it’s not.”
Nowinski said the most exciting thing about this new technology is how it’s taking a number that has never been quantifiable and making it possible for athletes to count and track.
“You know your height,” he said. “You know your weight, you know all sorts of data about yourself, but you never would have known how hard you’re being hit in the head. Now you can use that information to protect yourself.”
Of course, technology can’t keep you 100 percent safe 100 percent of the time. When playing an impact sport, playing safely and correctly is the key to safety. So if you use technology like Triax to monitor head hits, you should also work with coaches, parents, friends, and even doctors to ensure you’re staying safe on the field.
This is especially true for kids, whose brains are much more vulnerable to damage than adult brains. Dr. Robert Cantu, a co-founder of the SLI, says he wants kids to play sports — and this technology can be beneficial for young athletes.
He said an exciting part of the Triax is that it can easily be used where athletes receive most of their hits to the head: practice.
“The technology will also give parents and coaches the chance to identify outliers,” Dr. Cantu says. “Those players who have received a higher number of hits than most or might be playing their sport with poor technique and putting themselves at greater risk. It may be prudent to sit that individual down or modify the way they practice.”
And so, until she leaves for Canada, Wambach will continue to better herself in every way, shape and form, just as Triax will continue to do.
“It’s not just a company that’s throwing these headbands around,” she said. “They’ve done the research and they want to make sure they can help moving forward and be another useful and helpful tool.”
Photos: Rich Schultz/AP Photo (header), Jared Seltzer for Triaxtec.com (with girl)