Football at Lakewood Ranch High School in Bradenton is becoming less about hitting hard, and more about playing smart.

  • Football program paid over $10,000 for 'smart' helmets
  • Helmets equipped with sensors, GPS tracking
  • Coaches can evaluate players

"In order for this game to succeed, there's things that have to change," said Christopher Culton, head football coach for the Mustangs. 

That's why the football program shelled out over $10,000 to outfit every player on the 120-person team with high-tech 'smart' helmets, using Ridell's Insite Training Tool.

Each of the helmets is equipped with five sensors and linked to a type of GPS tracking system that maps a players' every move.  When the player is hit, it sends the coach an alert on a handheld computer, detailing where they were hit and how severe the impact was.

That way, the player can be pulled out of the game and evaluated instantly, instead of waiting until the injury gets worse. 

"It's always been symptomatic," Culton explained. "'What does the kid look like? Is his staggering? Did I see it?' You just don't see everything."

Later, the coaching staff can see a detailed report about each player. 

So if someone is leading with their head too much, or getting hot too hard and too often, they can make adjustments to how they play.

Culton is also making the way players practice "smarter."

"In practice now we don't do useless drills," said senior Cooper Corley. "Nothing that shows who's the strongest person and who's the toughest person -- it's all this stuff we're going to be using in the game."

Lakewood Ranch is the first school in the Bay area to outfit every player with a 'smart' helmet. Some local high schools have purchased a few that they are trying out with select players.