Mouth guard technology detects concussion risk
June 12, 2014
A new piece of sensory technology developed by Force Impact Technologies (FIT) called FITGuard collects data related to big hits sustained in sporting events and warns coaches when players may be at risk of sustaining a concussion.
A national issue
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 170,000 sports and recreation related traumatic brain injuries are treated each year in people under 20 years of age, and in the last 10 years, the frequency of these injuries has increased by 60 percent. Additionally, concussions and brain injuries occur most currently in football followed by girl's soccer.
On June 5, 2014 President Obama held the White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit, where the NCAA and the U.S. Department of Defense announced a joint venture to pursue the most comprehensive concussion study recorded. The study will feature 37,000 college athletes and a $30 million pledge to concussion education. That sum was almost matched by an NFL pledge of $25 million devoted to creating health and safety forums and providing more trainers for high school games, according to the White House blog.
According to the CDC, even mild concussions have the capacity to affect behavior, memory, learning and can cause life-long impairments.
The new technology
The FITGuard mouth guard aims to increase the likelihood of early detection using a network of sensors, a mobile software application and an LED light-equipped mouth piece used during sporting events. The mouth guard contains sensors that measure the velocity and angle of impacts that could cause concussions. During impact, FITGuard sensors record data based on clenching of teeth, changing accelerations and duration of impact to asses whether a player took a hit within a certain threshold. After sustaining a dangerous hit, the LED light displayed in the front of the mouth piece will change colors. Green indicates a safe level of impact, blue indicates a moderate impact that may cause injury risk if compacted with a second hit and red indicates that a player is at high risk of concussion or may have already sustained a concussion.
After sustaining moderate and serious impacts, users can download an analysis of the impact to a software application provided with the equipment. Additionally, the application uploads the information to a centralized server that collects data about users' basic information as well as impact details in order to quantify concussion statistics, and provide further analysis for physicians and health care professionals.
According to the company's website, FITGuard aims to reduce the frequency of second-hit concussions, which occur after a player experiences a second concussion-inducing hit during play that can have more serious negative health effects.
"Returning to play before you're ready is dangerous," Donna Romano, a physician assistant, told Medical Daily. "It can lead to a lifetime of problems. There are so many examples of brain damage throughout professional sports."
By 2013, all 50 states had passed concussion in sports laws, most of which include removing a player believed to have a concussion, according to the CDC. Unfortunately, as President Obama highlighted during the concussion summit, sports athletes often promote a "suck it up and play" mentality that encourages players to return to the field following dangerous hits. FITGuard aims to rectify this issue by providing an objective measurement of players' concussion risks. By observing the color of the mouth guard following impacts, coaches and trainers can assess whether or not to bench players accordingly.
FITGuard is intended to be released for sale within the next three months. Mouth guards are intended to fit children as young as, and the device is expected to last at least 300 playing hours.
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