Advances in Concussion Technology: Stick-On Accelerometers
Although much attention has been focused on the dangers of concussions and long-term brain injuries in professional sports, millions of young student athletes face similar dangers. Concussions caused by collisions and falls present a constant safety concern throughout high school sports program and youth recreational leagues.
However, many blows in youth sports aren’t necessarily easy to spot by coaches or parents. It doesn’t necessarily take a “big hit” or downed player with a stoppage in the game for a young athlete to have experienced a dangerous, concussion-level jolt.
Devices by Reebok Currently Available to Public
A few new lightweight devices have been developed for athletes to wear on the field. These devices are very small and unobtrusive and might just help coaches and support staff to keep better track of hits to players’ heads. The devices are packed with sensors and microprocessors which register any excessive blows to a player’s skull and immediately send an alert by blinking brightly or by transmitting a wireless alert to a laptop or tablet on the sidelines.
Athletes of all levels can be fitted with the devices which are pressed tightly to their heads and held in place by a headband or fitted within a thin beanie/skull cap. Many systems are currently in development, but a few products have made it to market this past fall.
The CheckLight is a washable beanie created jointly by MC10 and Reebok. The beanie has an electronics module tucked inside it. If the player receives a blow to the head, the module triggers LED readouts on the outside. It starts blinking in yellow if the impact is moderate or red if it is severe.
The CheckLight can be worn under a helmet for football or hockey, or by itself for soccer and other helmet-free sports. It was made available to the public this summer and is currently available at the Reebok Web site ($150).
Band-Aid Sized Stick On-Patch Already in Use by the NFL
This season, the NFL has begun using the X-Patch from X2 Biosystems in Seattle. The sensor is fitted directly to a player’s head (behind the ear) and sends data about hits wirelessly to the sidelines. The device is about the size of a standard Band-Aid. This past season, the NFL became a major customer of X2 and immediately mandated:
“…the use of the X2 ICE in all practices and games of all 32 teams this season. Through a cloud-connected mobile application environment, the X2 ICE captures athlete concussion history and pre-season neuro-cognitive function, balance, and coordinate-performance data, which is then used as a baseline for comparison after a suspected injury event.”
The product is now available for purchase, but public information does not disclose the price. Interested parties must contact X2 directly for pricing information.
Neurologists Express Support for the Effectiveness of New Concussion Sensors
Dr. Robert C. Cantu, a neurosurgery professor at the Boston University School of Medicine and medical director of the Sports Legacy Institute, which is seeking to prevent brain trauma in athletes, explained how he has reviewed many of the new sensors as they have been developed. He’s strongly supports the Reebok and X2 models.
“They give you a rough estimate of total number of hits to the head the person has taken,” information of great importance to coaches, parents and athletes themselves, he said. “You don’t want to get a high number of hits,” he said, “because there is no hit that is good for your head.”