Suttons Bay football teams with Riddell InSite

SUTTONS BAY – As the culture of football continues to evolve, one Northern Michigan high school is partnering with the country’s largest manufacturer of football helmets — all in the name of safety.

When members of the varsity and junior varsity football programs at Suttons Bay High School opened camp two weeks ago, they became the first school in Northern Michigan to utilize Riddell’s InSite Impact Response System, a three-component system that analyzes head impact exposure.

After stepping away from the game at the end of the 2014 season, longtime Cadillac coach Jim Webb took a position with Riddell as the company’s Northern Michigan sales representative and worked with Suttons Bay’s first-year head coach Alex Kohler in getting the Norsemen equipped with the program.

“There’s no doubt that this is an extra set of eyes,” Webb said. “It takes away some of that bias you have sometimes when have you have that big kid or little kid or that kid that really got hit hard.

“It’s basically a system that adds an extra set of eyes to help the sideline personnel with evaluating players and the safety of players, which is what it’s all about. It’s just smarter, safer football.”

The InSite Impact Response System consists of three major components: the Player Unit, which is a five-zone sensor pad installed in the helmet; the Alert Monitor, a sideline hand-held device that receives the impact results from the Player Unit and alerts the coaching staff of a potential risk to a player; and the Player Management Software, which can be used to view data collected of each player, allowing a coaching staff to analyze the head-related impact history of each athlete.

InSite Player Units monitor impact exposure using an impact exposure metric known as HITsp (HIT Severity Profile), which combines linear and rotational acceleration, impact location and impact duration. 

“It’s a linear impact as well as a rotational impact, which is becoming a piece of data that I think they are starting to look at closer as far as concussion-related injuries are concerned,” Webb added. “They’ve gone through some algorithms that have basically set up thresholds, and the nice thing is that it’s established by position and level. That threshold is then what the monitor is looking for to indicate whether or not that individual had a single impact that was above that threshold and if they need to be looked at or evaluated.

“There is a seven-day sliding window for multiple impacts, so if there are several multiple impacts over a seven-day period, that puts it over the threshold and will indicate that.”

Webb says the equipment is lightweight and adds very little weight to the helmet.

“The sensor pad is very light,” he said. “It’s a thin membrane that picks up the impacts from the head and then transfers them to a lightweight transmitter, so there’s really no weight added to the helmet.”

As part of its Impact Response System, Riddell has collected and studied nearly 2 million impact data points from all levels of football, ranging from youth to the NFL.

Webb, whose coaching career spanned more than three and a half decades, including 17 years at Cadillac, says this technology can prove to be beneficial for a coaching staff in how it prepares and conducts practices and drills.

“This is an innovative way to make the game safer, particularly as a coach, to be able to take a look at your drills and look at the impacts that are occurring during a particular drill and determine if this drill is working,” Webb said. “Even if there is a particular player who keeps coming up with several impacts, there may be a technique there to work on to limit the head impacts.

“From a coaching standpoint, you’re always trying to make the practices safer and the games safer.”

Webb credits Kohler, his coaching staff and the Suttons Bay community for taking an initiative for player safety.

“I want to give credit to coach Alex Kohler and his staff. They’re the first school in Northern Michigan to pick it up, and I think that says a lot about them and the community and how they want to protect their athletes,” Webb said. “They may not be the biggest school around, but it’s nice to see that they’re obviously concerned about player safety and they’re going to do whatever steps they can to help keep it that way.

“Suttons Bay is unique in the fact that they would like to eventually implement it in Pop Warner and seventh and eighth grade. Again, it’s about the coaching staff and the commitment that they have to the safety of the players.”

The cost of the InSite program is $150 per Player Unit and $200 for the Alert Monitor.