Alabama Football Benefits From Engineering

Collaboration between The University of Alabama’s College of Engineering and the Crimson Tide Athletics Department resulted in a unique addition to the Bama sidelines during football games.

The only thing Alabama has not yet come up with is a name for the collapsible tent that serves as an on-the-field examination room for Crimson Tide players who suffer injury during a game.

Jeff Allen, Alabama’s associate athletics director for sports medicine, had the idea for a tent that could be used for quick and somewhat private examination of players and approached Engineering Dean Dr. Charles L. Karr about the feasibility. Dr. Karr put the project in the hands of four senior mechanical engineering students last May. Allen hoped he might have the product by the end of this season. The students had it ready for the start of the season.

The tent was not used in the first game in Arlington, Texas, against Wisconsin, but has been used in every game since.

Allen said the first 10 minutes of evaluation of an injured player can be very important, particularly with the issue of concussions in today’s game. He brought the idea to Coach Nick Saban in the early stages, and, Allen said, Saban was enthusiastically supportive.

The the structure of iodized aluminum tubing is connected to a central hub. The tent, which is 16 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 7 feet high, can be raised in 10 seconds by one person. The tent, which covers an examination table, is raised only when being used, but does not affect fans viewing of the game when erect. It weighs only 70 pounds.

The tent fabric is UV and water resistant, and passed the water test in Alabama’s rainy game at Georgia earlier this year. The synthetic fabric allows for ventilation and the light gray roof is transparent enough to enable examination without the need for lights. Every part of the tent that touches the ground is covered with heavy-grade ballistic nylon to protect from wear and tear from the ground and from players’ footwear. The doors are sectioned and close together with magnets.

“It’s better than I envisioned,” Allen said.

One advantage of the tent is that it greatly reduces distractions for the medical team and provides privacy for the player, meaning a less stressful atmosphere. Allen said the players are pleased with the sideline examination experience.

There are no medical procedures performed in the tent, although a player can have something along the lines of an ankle being taped. Players will be taken to the locker room for injuries that necessitate more serious medical attention.

Although it wasn’t about the money, The University has a patent pending, and Allen said he has already received numerous inquiries from the medical staffs of other schools about acquiring the device. Alabama also has paid advertising on the side on the tent.

The students who designed the project are Jared Cassity of Tuscaloosa, Christian Parris of Birmingham, Jared Porteous of Tuscaloosa, and Patrick Powell of Pelham. The senior project was under the direction of Dr. Beth Todd, associate professor of mechanical engineering.

Altec Industries of Birmingham donated the manufactured components for the tent, and a custom seamstress, Elizabeth Powell, stitched the fabrics. CAVCO of Childrersburg donated the supplies for the prototype.


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