Two New Devices Could Track Concussions
Even though sports are a great way to exercise and relieve stress, one of its biggest risks is injury. With almost all sports, such as football, baseball and soccer, head injuries are common. Even though athletes might wear helmets, studies have shown that repeated hits to the head that do not result in concussions could be as detrimental as a concussion. Other studies have found that concussions can lead to serious brain injuries and mental illnesses, such as depression, which is why finding ways of preventing head contact would be vital for the health of athletes. Two different companies recently announced that they have been developing new technologies that could measure the severity of a head impact.
The first product is called CheckLight developed by MC10. CheckLight looks like a super thin beanie that is made by fitting a thin and bendable electronic sensor into a mesh cup designed by Reebok. When athletes wear this product, the sensor will light up depending on the severity of the impact to the head. A yellow light means that the hit was moderate and a red light would tell coaches that the hit was severe. Although the sensors do not protect the athletes from a concussion, it can help coaches and sport trainers teach athletes how to play and avoid hits better. The product is set to be released later this month and is currently set at $150 a piece.
"The whole point of the CheckLight system is that you don't want the red or yellow light to be triggered. In our field tests, the majority of coaches reported that their athletes were more cognizant of keeping their head out of the path of impact. This is a real-time teaching tool to give you instantaneous feedback," said Isaiah Kacyvenski, the head of the Sports division with the Cambridge-based company to TIME. Kacyvenski used to play in the National Football League (NFL) as a linebacker.
The second product is called X-Patch designed by the Seattle-based company, X2 Biosystems,. This product is the size of a quarter and weights only two grams. When it is placed on the back of an athlete's neck, it sends information regarding the severity of the impact sustained to a computer. The information is wirelessly transmitted and is encrypted so that other teams cannot access the information. Once the impact is recorded, the system automatically compares the severity of this impact to other ones taken from a database. This product has not been priced and is scheduled to be released in the summer of 2014.
"Impact information is shown to coaches not only in comparison to an athlete's neurocognitive performance prior to the impacts, but also in context of an individual player's history. We gauge the magnitude of impact according to how rare the impact event is in the course of the particular activity at the particular level of play. For example, a 10 on the X2 scale would represent an event of such magnitude that on average one team would experience a "10″ once during the course of an entire season," co-founder, Rich Able explained.
These two products have the potential to change how sports are played. They can help coaches and athletes find ways of avoiding head impacts.