As the Minnesota Vikings prepare to take on the mantle of being the host city for the Super Bowl, a pair of Minnesota companies will be competing in Houston Saturday as part of the Second Annual 1st and Future event.
The 1st and Future program, a joint venture between the NFL and Texas Medical Center, highlights companies that are using innovation to advance sports technology and athlete safety.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be on hand to address the nine startup companies that will be taking part in the competition to have their innovations mass produced and perhaps adopted by the NFL.
The companies will be divided into three categories – communicating with the athlete, training the athlete and materials to protect the athlete.
In the area of communicating with the athlete, GoRout of Rochester, Minn. is one of the three finalists. GoRout has created on-field wearable technology to help streamline the communication between coaches and players to receive digital play diagrams and data from coaches on the sideline.
GoRout will be competing with two other companies – Elevety of Toronto and Linkpro of Jersey City, Channel Island, United Kingdom. Elevety has developed a one-to-one communications system between a coach and player that doesn’t require a mobile network. Linkpro has developed a technology-enabled helmet with full integrated communications technology that allows groups of players and coaches to communicate with a simple one-touch system.
In the area of materials designed to protect athletes, Minneapolis-based Prevent Biometrics is competing with two other companies – 2ND Skull of Pittsburgh and Windpact of Leesburg, Va. Prevent Biometrics has developed a head-impact monitor that can detect potential concussion-causing impacts in real time while a game is being played, creating a more accurate data-driven process to determine concussions. 2ND Skull has trademarked a protective inner-helmet headgear scientifically designed to reduce impact. Windpact has developed pads that use air and foam to absorb and disperse impact energy for use in helmets and body pads.
The third area of competition is in the category of training athletes. Iron Neck of Austin, Texas has developed a neck training tool to enable athletes in all sports to increase strength, flexibility and range of motion to both guard against concussive forces and rehabilitate existing injuries. LVL, also of Austin, has developed an optical sensor-driven platform that gives a continuous view of a player’s physiological state, including monitoring hydration, muscle effort and exertion, heart rate, speed and concussion markers. MVP (Mobile Virtual Player) of Lebanon, N.H. has created a virtual player that can show players what they’re supposed to do on plays without having to take the repetitive hits from those plays.
The companies will show off their products Shark Tank-style before a panel of former players and doctors. The winner in each category will receive $50,000 to further develop their innovations and receive acceptance into the Texas Medical Center’s well-known start-up program.
For almost the entirety of the history of football, from its earliest moments, football players and science nerds have tended to have a predator-prey relationship, but, as we make technological advancements, the nerds may end up being the football heroes because they develop the technology that helps prevent injuries and not only elongate football careers, but elongate the quality of life for players long after the cheers fade away.