“MVP.” In any sports arena this acronym is commonly and almost
exclusively known by players, coaches, and their fans alike as Most Valuable
Player. The MVP is the most exemplary member of a team, always playing
a major role in leading his or her teammates successfully to victory.
But today, I want to discuss a bit of a different type of MVP. One who
is still poised to take a permanent and valuable place on the sports field:
Mobile Virtual Player.
Now, when we think of the makeup of a collegiate and professional sports
team, what typically pops into people’s minds are of course the
players, the coaches, the sideline physicians and maybe a few personal
trainers. Robots don’t usually play into this mix. But these robots,
or virtual players, are breaking into the game (of football specifically)
and claiming a spot on the team.
So what exactly are these Mobile Virtual Players? And what role do they
play on the football field?
These MVP’s, which were originally designed to avoid helmet contact
and promote safe tackling amongst players during practice, are foam rubber
dummies that have the capacity to “run” at high speeds and
expertly cut across the football field. Controlled by a remote, the robots
are programmed to behave as necessary and carry out the “dirty work”
in practice, thus allowing the players to reserve their energy, in addition
to reducing the direct helmet-to-helmet contact when tackling.
Reduction of these constant sub-concussive head hits is a pivotal turning
point in football practices. Utilizing the MVP robots can greatly reduce
the number of hits the players must endure in practice, and one day may
succeed in eliminating them all together.
Not only do MVPs hold a pivotal role in the prevention of CTE, head injuries,
and concussions; they may also begin to play a major part in the onsite
diagnosis and treatment of such injuries when there is no doctor present.
This innovative technology allows a neurologist who is not present at
the scene to assess and examine a player thought to have suffered a concussion
or other type of head injury, through the eyes of the “robot”.
They may maneuver the robot through remote controls to not only scan the
player for signs and symptoms of a concussion, but also to consult and
collaborate with whatever medical or coaching staff is on site, to formulate
a thorough plan for immediate treatment.
Being able to quickly identify the moment a player has suffered a traumatic
head injury such as a concussion, allows treatment to be started sooner,
and ultimately protects the player from further neurological damage. Though
it should be noted that elite athletes will likely have great medical
coverage on the sidelines, it is important to note that youth athletes
and others should always use the ‘when in doubt, sit it out’
rule (removing a player if concussion is definite, probable or possible).
With these technological advancements complementing the existing interdisciplinary
medical team, neurologists will be able to diagnose and implement treatment
for players in real time, thereby raising the odds for a complete and