“It’s a violent game:” Milwaukee high school one of 10 to get technology to protect football players

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Playing smart can mean many things when it comes to the sport of football. Most importantly, it can mean safety for the athletes. St. Thomas More High School is taking safety to the next level. It is one of just ten schools in the country to receive a new tool meant to protect young football players.

For Nic Kelly, serving as an assistant football coach at St. Thomas More High School is something that goes hand-in-hand with being a teacher.

"It's a dream come true. Being able to be around these kids, teaching them the fundamentals of the game is something I really appreciate and really cherish," Kelly said.

But with the love of kids and the game they play comes a harsh reality.

"We've lost very key players to concussions. We've had kids come to us and complain about symptoms in which we were not able to assess or see right away," Kelly said.

That prompted the sixth-year coach to enter a contest online.

"Progressive Insurance put up a challenge to submit an essay to be able to receive Shockbox Helmet Sensors. You could receive a grant to get helmet sensors that could act as a sensor to alert a coach, or a therapist, or a school trainer that a student might have received a hit that could result in a concussion," Kelly said.

Kelly's essay was one of ten winning essays from across the country. St. Thomas More High School was selected to receive nearly a dozen Shockbox Helmet Sensors.

"As soon as they take a hit to the helmet, up to a certain reading, it will actually alert me on my cell phone. That will tell me that the student's name. It gives me the ability to assess what may have happened in terms of receiving dizziness, if they have loss of vision, are they stable, are they shaky?" Kelly said.

First-year Head Coach Chris Roggeman says he's ecstatic to learn some of his players will be able to utilize this new tool.

"It takes a lot of the liability off of me and it puts the kids in a safer, you know, it puts them in a safer environment," Coach Roggeman said.

St. Thomas More football players like T.J. Koenig say they're happy to have the Shockbox Sensors in their helmets.

"I mean it's a violent game out there. This is just going to help us that much more," Koenig said.

While the sensors cannot diagnose or prevent a concussion, they do allow for more awareness of the possibility of a head injury to a player. That's why everyone on the St. Thomas More football team is thankful they're here.

"Hopefully I don't have to use it. We're going to see how they work and hopefully next year we'll get some more for the rest of players," Coach Roggeman said.

"I think this is just one big step to eventually trying to figure out the solution to concussions," Koenig said.

"We're doing whatever we can to make sure that they're safe," Kelly said.

St. Thomas More High School was the first of the ten high schools to receive the Shockbox Helmet Sensors.

Their goal is to eventually have everyone on the team with sensors in their helmet.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Shockbox Helmet Sensors.