4 years ago

How a secret student project helped Alabama football and could turn into a cash cow

Alabama's sideline tent has been a game-changer for injured players, and could turn out to be a very profitable business for its inventors. (Photo: University of Alabama)
Alabama’s sideline tent has been a game-changer for injured players, and could turn out to be a very profitable business for its inventors. (Photo: University of Alabama)

On October 10, 2015, Georgia running back Nick Chubb walked into Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium seeking his fourteenth consecutive game with 100 yards rushing. In the first quarter, Chubb took a pitch and, seeing no openings up the middle, bounced the run outside to his left. A Tennessee defensive back lunged and hit him low about 5 yards from the sideline, causing Chubb to spin 360 degrees as he stumbled out of bounds.

It was the kind of play that happens numerous times in any given football game. But this one was different.

As Chubb planted his left foot, struggling to keep his balance, a second Tennessee defender hit him about waist level from his right, causing his left knee to hyperextend (bend the exact opposite way it’s supposed to) in a manner so gruesome that the announcer referred to it as “scary.”

For the next several minutes, every excruciating moment of Chubb’s medical crisis — from the injury, to him passing out from the pain and regaining consciousness, to the trainers working on him, to his exit from the stadium — was examined by millions of viewers worldwide.

While Chubb’s injury is an extreme example, many athletes — football players in particular — endure a lack of basic medical privacy that most people would never imagine putting up with. Camera crews routinely ignore what is happening on the field in favor of the closest shot they can get of an injured athlete being treated in the open air on the sideline.

At roughly the same time Georgia was squaring off against Tennessee in Knoxville, Alabama was hosting Arkansas in Tuscaloosa.

In the second quarter, Alabama’s senior linebacker Reggie Ragland tried to break through the line of scrimmage, ramming an Arkansas lineman with his left shoulder before crumbling to the ground in pain. The famed Alabama training staff hustled Ragland off the field and disappeared into a tent on the sideline that seemed to appear out of nowhere.

The 100,000-plus fans inside the stadium and the millions watching on television had no idea what was going on, but behind a thin wall of synthetic fabric, Ragland was receiving world-class medical attention in relative privacy.

One person noted, “It almost seems too simple. You look at it and think, ‘Why didn’t we have this before?’”

But as simple as it may seem, the University of Alabama’s popup medical tent is the first of its kind, and is already poised to revolutionize sports medicine at live events.

And the story behind how it came to be combines “If I told you, I’d have to kill you” secrecy with the kind of innovation and entrepreneurial drive that has made “Built By Bama” more than just a football program catchphrase.

THE SECRET PROJECT

A group of seniors in Alabama’s engineering school walked into their design class last year and were told by the professor that they had the opportunity to work on a “secret project.” If they signed up to participate, they could receive two extra credit hours, but that was the extent of the information that was given out.

Jared Cassity, of Tuscaloosa; Christian Parris, of Birmingham; Jared Porteous, of Tuscaloosa; and Patrick Powell, of Pelham signed up and planned to use the opportunity — whatever it was — as their senior project.

Not until later did they find out it was a clandestine assignment for the football program, a tidbit of information that probably would have compelled dozens more students to sign up, if they had known.

Jeff Allen, UA’s director of sports medicine, had hatched the idea for the tent weeks before, and asked Dr. Charles Karr, dean of the UA College of Engineering, if he could help bring it to fruition, which led to the secret project offer to his students.

The students went to work on Allen’s innovative design concept, which proved to be a challenge.

Most tents of this size, such as the commercially-available tailgating tents that dot the UA Quad on game days, take more than one person to raise, and setting up and taking down is a lengthy process, according to Powell, who served as the project leader. Commercially-available tents also require guy lines to secure them to the ground.

“The challenge was to deliver the most working space while maintaining a small footprint, develop a system that could be quickly deployed by a single person, and be portable enough to travel with the team for road games,” said Powell. “Once in position, our tent can be raised in less than 10 seconds.”

The tent developed by the students and Allen connects the structure of the tent to a central hub. When raised, the structure fans over the exam table. The exam table secures the structure to the ground and allows the tent be used on grass, artificial turf or concrete without the use of guy lines.

“This design allows the tent to fan out from a small footprint into a structure twice as long and fully enclosed,” he said.

The material the students selected had to be light, but strong enough to support the structure and withstand the varying weather conditions. The synthetic fabrics chosen allow for ventilation, and the light-grey roof is transparent enough to conduct an exam 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 players’ footwear. The doors are sectioned and clasp together with magnets.

The prototype was made of donated components from Altec Industries and CAVCO, stitched together by a local seamstress named Elizabeth Powell, and it has now been used in every single Alabama football game this season, except the first.

Other teams have taken notice. From the college level all the way up to the NFL, Alabama’s popup tent quickly became a hot topic.

CASH COW?

As the story goes, “in early summer of 1965, a University of Florida assistant coach sat down with a team of university physicians and asked them to determine why so many of his players were being affected by heat and heat related illnesses.

“The researchers — Dr. Robert Cade, Dr. Dana Shires, Dr. H. James Free and Dr. Alejandro de Quesada — soon discovered two key factors that were causing the Gator players to ‘wilt’: the fluids and electrolytes the players lost through sweat were not being replaced, and the large amounts of carbohydrates the players’ bodies used for energy were not being replenished.

“The researchers then took their findings into the lab, and scientifically formulated a new, precisely balanced carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage that would adequately replace the key components lost by Gator players through sweating and exercise. They called their concoction ‘Gatorade’.”

Last year, royalties for the University of Florida’s Gatorade inventors surpassed $1 billion.

A USA Today story on Alabama’s popup tent predicted that “it could be to Alabama football what Gatorade was to Florida.”

A provisional patent has been filed for the tent’s design and the UA Vice President for Research and Economic Development is assisting in protecting and promoting the intellectual property covered in the pending patent.

“It’s a really, really fertile ground to come up with neat projects the kids can work on and see them implement it, to go through the process of developing intellectual property, applying for a patent on it and do real, live design of something that is sitting in front of millions of people,” said Dr. Karr, the engineering school’s dean.

The team of inventors is working to expand their budding business, and the technology’s applications seem to be endless.

In fact, Alabama tight end O.J. Howard told USA Today he’s already found an alternate use.

“If you gotta use the restroom, you can go in there,” he said. “Sometimes you might have to (urinate) in a bottle or something. I’ve heard of guys doing that before. I think it’s cool how it pops up and then pops back down, but most of all it keeps you from having to go all the way to locker room. You can go in there, change, put on (a different piece of equipment) if you have to. It’s very convenient.”

From a University of Alabama classroom, to the Alabama football sideline and, perhaps, sidelines all over the world…

#BuiltByBama.

7 hours ago

Jones: ‘Whole lot of blame to go around’ for COVID deaths — Points to Trump administration, China, WHO

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) on Thursday hosted a live-streamed availability with Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris regarding the coronavirus.

Jones and Harris each made opening remarks, including updates on Alabama’s COVID-19 data as well as ongoing efforts to combat the pandemic.

The two officials then answered questions from members of the media that were submitted ahead of time.

For example, Jones was asked, “What would you tell people now that the number of deaths from coronavirus in the U.S. has surpassed 100,000? Many commentators are blaming the White House response. And are the current reopening strategies of Alabama and other states premature?”

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“Well, you know, look, I’ve seen the commentators — and I don’t think we’re at a point where we should be pointing a whole lot of blame,” Jones answered, before appearing to do just that.

“There’s a whole lot of blame to go around,” he continued. “I think we have to point to China for some of the issues that they raised. I was disappointed at some of the early response from the [World Health Organization], even though we could have done a better job with testing in this country.”

Jones then placed some “blame” at the feet of President Donald J. Trump and his administration.

“I’ve been disappointed in the administration and their early responses,” the junior senator advised. “You talk about ‘cavalier attitudes,’ I think the president had one early on. All of that has, perhaps, affected where we are in this country.”

“But I think the key right now is where we are today and what we’re planning on doing going forward,” Jones added.

He subsequently questioned the notion that reopening strategies for Alabama and other states in general are “premature.”

Jones outlined that reopening can be done safely if people continue to listen to health experts like Harris and follow social distancing/sanitation guidelines.  Jones urged Alabamians to wear masks in public.

“I don’t think that reopening is inconsistent with trying to stop this spread by [doing] the same things that people have been saying since this virus came to this country,” he said. “And that is to social distance, that is to make sure you wear the masks… to protect you and others. If we continue to do that, if we could just get used to that — I think that’s been the biggest issue right now. Some people just don’t want to be told to do it, and I get that. But the fact is if people could just get used to doing this, we could stop the spread.”

Earlier in the live stream, he was complimentary of recent state-level efforts led by Harris and Governor Kay Ivey related to the pandemic.

“Alabama is still seeing a significant number of cases. We have begun to open up, and we’ve begun to open up — I think — carefully and wisely, following the science,” Jones commented. “And I think the governor has done a very good job of trying to get two messages out. Yes, we want to open up, we want to get the economy rolling again. But at the same time, we’ve got to do it safely. And it’s that latter message that I’m not sure folks are hearing as much. You only have to see the pictures from the beaches and other places in Alabama and around the country to see that folks are not quite getting the message that this virus is still out there, it is still dangerous, it is still deadly. And we want to open up, but opening up is not inconsistent with what we should be doing to protect ourselves and our families and our communities.”

Jones further remarked that Harris “has done a great job” helping lead Alabama’s response to the pandemic.

Other topics covered during the live stream included Jones’ hope that live sports can return with fans in attendance this fall, as well as Harris explaining that while increased testing could explain a portion of Alabama’s rising number of positive COVID-19 cases, community spread is occurring in multiple hotspots.

You can watch the entire live stream below:

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

8 hours ago

Huntsville doctor using hydroxychloroquine for some COVID-19 patients

An infectious disease doctor at Huntsville Hospital says he continues to use the drug hydroxychloroquine to treat some patients with the coronavirus.

The drug, often championed by President Donald Trump, has been the subject of intense nationwide discussion during the pandemic.

A recent retrospective study published in the scientific journal The Lancet showed evidence that hydroxychlorquine had no positive results for hospitalized patients.

WAFF asked Dr. Ali Hassoun of Huntsville Hospital about the article published in The Lancet. He said the type of study and characteristics of the subjects meant that it was not good enough evidence to stop using hydroxychloroquine.

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Hassoun says he continues to treat patients with the drug as long as they are not at risk for the side effects.

A top infectious disease expert at UAB Hospital recently told Yellowhammer News that he and his team do not recommend hydroxychloroquine for hospitalized patients.

Most of the published evidence used to fuel media articles on hydroxychloroquine’s ineffectiveness have used studies done on hospitalized subjects.

Another member of the team at UAB, Dr. Turner Overton, is currently helping conduct a trial studying hydroxychloroquine’s ability to treat the coronavirus in its earliest stages.

Hassoun did not reveal in his interviews the condition of the patients to whom he is giving hydroxychloroquine.

Another drug, remdesivir, has shown in studies to be effective at treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients, but the supply is low.

Hassoun told WAFF he is prescribing remdesivir as well.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

8 hours ago

Twitter should back down, and Trump should back off

American politics are about to enter a precarious place where the messages put out by politicians, or maybe only one politician, are going to be filtered by nameless and faceless tech employees that work for Twitter.

As we all know, Twitter is the tool used by President Donald Trump to get around the gate-keeping and absurd bias of the mainstream media.

Until this week, he had an unfiltered avenue to speak directly to the American people, and they had an avenue to hear him.

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Of course, afterward, anyone and everyone with a TV, newspaper byline or Twitter account could respond and call him a liar, fraud, treasonous monster or whatever they wanted.

But Twitter decided to step in and decide that they would start behaving differently, just for Trump, and editorialize on his content.

While they could have chosen to do so on his claims that MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough needed to be looked at as a potential murderer, but they didn’t.

SIDENOTE: There is a tape where he jokes about having an affair and killing her.

Instead, Twitter decided they needed to go after the president on the issue of voter fraud.

Twitter editorialized this tweet by adding: “Get the facts about mail-in ballots” with links to content accusing the president of getting the facts wrong.

The reality is Democrats are pushing for all vote-by-mail elections.

Some states are automatically mailing ballots to all registered voters, while some are just mailing applications.

But this is far worse than this particular case. It’s the precedent being set.

Why Trump?

When Trump gets some of the info wrong, let the media and his political enemies call him out.

Why not all the elected officials who continued to allege Russian collusion for years, and still do to this day on Twitter?

What about media figures who spread dangerous misinformation about the motives of their fellow citizens and use Twitter to delimitate their attacks?

Why not Ayatollah Khomeini, who openly threatens Isreal?

Why not the official Chinese government Twitter accounts that accuse the United States of spreading the coronavirus?

The last two don’t even allow their citizens to use Twitter, but Twitter will bow down to them?

What about the people claiming former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions didn’t have to recuse himself? He did.

What about those who think U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) has a chance at reelection? He doesn’t.

What about the anonymous guy who accuses me of numerous crimes and misdeeds on Twitter daily?

Does that guy now get a note depicting that his comments are untrue or unfounded?

What about essentially every column written by the bitter losers at Alabama Media Group? They had to dump their comment section because their commenters were crushing their souls. Will Twitter’s CEO or site integrity police call out their misinformation?

We could do this all day.

That’s the point. Moderation of this kind and on this scale is impossible.

It can’t be done effectively. That’s the purpose of the rule Trump wants reinterpreted.

More importantly, it should not be done — and it especially should not be done to one individual.

It shouldn’t matter how many times Joe Scarborough or any of CNN’s interchangeable talking heads declare, “This should be taken down,” Twitter should just stay out of moderating political debates because they will inevitably get it wrong and if they don’t editorialize, they now accept it.

What if Trump tweets “LOOK at all the lies Joe Biden has told, from the lies about his wife’s death to the lies about his son’s business dealings!”

If Twitter lets them stand, they are now confirmed? (SIDENOTE: They are confirmed)

Facebook actually got this as close to right as you could expect. They have attempted to discredit things linked to their site with a bit of a mixed bag approach that has angered liberals and conservatives alike.

But Twitter has now awakened the president, and he has the ability to raise questions about their status as a forum and not a publisher.

If Twitter is smart, they will follow the lead of Facebook’s CEO of stop trying to act as the arbiter of truth. Zuckerberg believes Twitter went too far, saying, “I think in general private companies probably shouldn’t be – especially these platform companies – shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.”

Truthfully, Zuckerberg knows that Twitter is dragging him (and Google) into this, and he wants no part of it, nor should he.

Trump’s potential executive order makes his position clear, “This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic. When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power.”

He wants to strip them of immunity, meaning if they want to editorialize, then they are responsible for anything that they allow.

This will either force Twitter to back down on moderation or die as it currently exists and take down most social media sites with it.

As with any executive order, the next president can change the rules (except for DACA, apparently).

It’s pretty clear that Twitter has over-stepped here, and they only have two options if the president’s order becomes a reality and survives a court challenge: back down on moderation of political speech or be crushed by lawsuits and government oversight.

The correct move by Twitter would be to stop this nonsense right now, acknowledge that they will stop moderating political speech, and move on knowing they messed up.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.

8 hours ago

Wind Creek facilities in Alabama reopening June 8

Wind Creek Hospitality has announced that it is reopening all three of its resort-style gaming properties in Alabama over the next two weeks.

A release detailed that a soft opening to small groups of invited guests will begin Thursday, June 4, followed by a public opening for the “new” full operation on Monday, June 8.

The Wind Creek properties affected are in Atmore, Wetumpka and Montgomery, resepctively.

The company is instituting new policies to ensure that guests can enjoy themselves as safely as possible. This will include temperature checks for all guests and employees, and masks or face coverings will be required for everyone.

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Guests are asked to bring their own mask, however players who do not have their own mask will be able to acquire one on property for a small donation supporting local first responders, health care providers and COVID-19 patient relief funds.

Smoking will only be allowed in designated spots separate from the gaming floor, restaurants and other public areas.

To accommodate social distancing, all of the properties will be limiting the number of guests on the casino floor; this new maximum capacity will be roughly one-third of normal operations. All locations are employing increased distances between tables in dining venues and clearly marking appropriate distances near hotel check-in, player services and other areas where lines historically formed.

Upon reopening, the casino floor will be open to the public for four sessions each day and deep cleaning will be conducted between sessions. These deep-cleaning efforts will come in addition to the cleaning of each machine before and after every guest.

Once Wind Creek properties open for general admission on June 8, special waiting areas will be available for guests at each property if a property is at capacity.

For those who want to plan ahead, Wind Creek is introducing a new reservation system that lets guests make a reservation for a particular session up to 14 days in advance.

According to Jay Dorris, CEO and president of Wind Creek, “Just like your favorite restaurant on a Friday night, a reservation isn’t required. But if you absolutely want to join us on a given day and time, reservations are available.”

With limited capacity, demand is sure to be high. By encouraging guests to reserve a visit, Wind Creek is hoping to eliminate any lines that make it difficult to maintain a six-foot distance.

The reservation system will be open to guests by June 3 online here. Reservations can also be made by calling (866) WIND-360 [866.946.3360] or a casino host.

It has not yet been announced when the Wind Creek-owned Mobile Greyhound Park will reopen. All of Wind Creek’s properties across the globe voluntarily closed in early March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

9 hours ago

Sessions says DoJ regulations requiring recusal ‘basically had the impact of law’; Questions Tuberville’s commitment to Trump’s China, trade policies

What happened regarding the 2017 decision by then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from involvement in any investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election will have a lasting impact on presidential appointments for the foreseeable future.

Future presidents and presidents-elect will be reluctant to appoint anyone politically active to the U.S. Attorney General post in the future given the interpretation of the Department of Justice regulations on investigations into campaigns.

During an interview that aired on Auburn radio’s WQSI, Sessions, candidate for U.S. Senate in Alabama, explained the regulation he was following and how it was “basically” the law. He also called his decision fundamental in that a law enforcement official could not investigate himself.

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“The code of federal regulations is where it is,” Sessions said. “It’s not just guidance, letter or a policy point from the attorney general or something. It is a notice. It is published nationwide. People can hear it, make complaints to it, and then it becomes adopted. For the people at the Department [of Justice], it basically has the impact of law. The attorney general can’t change it, number one. Number two, it’s just basic. The district attorney in Lee County can’t investigate if he worked at a bank the bank he worked at, where he would be a witness to the investigation, in which they may have suggested he was involved in wrongdoing at the bank. You can’t investigate yourself. This is a fundamental principle. But the regulation says if you participate in a political organization in a substantial role, you’re not able to investigate yourself.”

Sessions noted former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), U.S. Attorney General William Barr, and former U.S. Attorneys General Ed Meese and Mike Mukasey agreed with his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

When asked if he would accept the appointment now knowing what he knows, Sessions offered his mindset on the 2016 offer from then-President-elect Trump.

“Look, I believe that I was ready to lead that department,” he said. “I spent 14 years in that department. I had supervisory oversight for 20 years. I knew what the problems were, and we did some tremendous things.”

When asked for a yes or no answer regarding what he might do had he known about the obstacles that were to lie ahead for him when offered the post, Sessions declined.

“You can’t go back on those kinds of things, Jeff,” he replied. “That’s just a silly thought, frankly. I don’t mean to be dismissive, but we’re not going there. I took the job. I did my best duty. I serve at the pleasure of the president. The question is right now — we talked about my situation over and over and over again. Let’s talk about Tommy Tuberville.”

Sessions went on to raise his July 14 GOP primary opponent Tommy Tuberville’s comments about U.S. policy regarding China, trade.

“Who is going to help the president carry out his agenda?” Sessions added.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.