49ers Double as Medical Test Subjects

Stanford Medical Center and 49ers team up for high-tech study on hitting.

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    TK
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    SAN FRANCISCO - AUGUST 22: Nate Byham #82 of the San Francisco 49ers is hit by Tyrell Johnson #25 of the Minnesota Vikings during a preseason game at Candlestick Park on August 22, 2010 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Nate Byham;Tyrell Johnson

    The Stanford University Medical Center is undertaking an ambitious and technologically advanced study on the biomechanics of the vicious hitting and physical trauma of NFL football.

    The San Francisco 49ers will be their live test subjects.

    Daniel Garza, an emergency and sports medicine physician at Stanford Hospital, as well as the 49ers’ medical director says “It’s unprecedented for an NFL team to support research at this level."

    Certain 49ers players will participate in the Sensor Project developed by the Stanford University Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, the Medical Center announced. These players will wear wireless sensors and transmitters that collect data on how hard the players hit -- or get hit -- during live games.

    49ers offensive players will wear sensors embedded in their pads on the chest and abdomen. Defensive players will have the sensors in their shoulder pads. The goal is to better understand the physical trauma players encounter in these areas, so as to develop more effective protective gear.

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    "We’re trying to understand the biomechanics of the trauma players receive, so we can both assess how well their body armor is working and what physicians should be looking out for," Stanford physician Dr. Daniel Garza said. "It’s difficult to assess these athletes on the sidelines when they’ve potentially sustained some kind of internal injury, especially when they’re reluctant to leave the game."

    In a separate study, another team of Stanford doctors is employing a different space-age technology to research 49ers players. This team of doctors will use infrared cameras to measure the body temperature and circulation of individual players, so as to assess which players might be at risk for dehydration.

    The study is well-timed, considering Wednesday's scary developments at the U.S. Open.

    Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who wishes there had been wireless transmitters on Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree when they had their big practice fight Wednesday.