Concussion is a strange, perilous kind of injury that occurs after a substantial blow to the head. It’s strange because sometimes the knock can be completely innocuous, and often the symptoms don’t appear straight away in the manner of an ordinary injury. It’s perilous because brain damage can be something you never fully recover from, with varying degrees of seriousness. By nature, concussion is often difficult to diagnose, usually requiring a professional doctor to provide an assessment. Because of this, serious head injuries in both amateur and professional sport often go unnoticed and untreated, with many sufferers even continuing physical activity only to later regret not taking their knock to the head a little more seriously…
Head injuries in contact sports are commonplace. This is no surprise in highly physical contests, where only the supreme balance and athleticism of those involved stands between them and a painful collision with another player, or the ground. In recent years the Barclays Premier League has often been mired in concussion controversy, with a number of goalkeepers taking big blows to the head before continuing with the game after a very brief inspection from medical staff. Managers and clubs have even been accused of putting results before the long term health of their players. The ongoing Rugby World Cup has already had a number of high profile incidents related to concussion, including one involving Scotland’s John Hardie, who had to miss two matches after taking a knock to the head.
But hopefully it won’t always be this way, and both technology and advances in medicine could help to lower the risk to player safety. Rugby is one sport that, due to the sheer physicality involved, has a host of potential future innovations which could see technology make a big impact – ahead of this year’s RWC, this infographic looks at concussion detectors, biometric wristbands, and gum shield sensors (see bottom of page).
One company looking at how technology can help diagnose concussion is Jolt Sensor. The Jolt Sensor is a small device which clips on to the back of your head, and measures the levels of impact you are experiencing during a match or training session. If you receive a potentially dangerous blow to the head the device, as well as vibrating, is paired to a smartphone via Bluetooth and will notify you immediately. Whichever sport you’re playing, the wearables market is offering new solutions all the time, and this is certainly one of the most ingenious.
Inspired by his own experience with a potentially serious head injury, Jolt Sensor is the creation of MIT student Ben Harvatine. He suffered concussion during wrestling practice but didn’t realise, and so carried on, exposing his injured head to more dangerous impacts. His struggle back from the brain injuries he suffered inspired him to develop an innovative way of identifying concussion.
If a dangerous impact is detected, the sensor will vibrate in an effort to alert the athlete, also sending a notification to a paired smartphone; for example one belonging to a coach or parent. But that’s not all, the Jolt Sensor app also has a clever section for diagnosing concussion, so once a heavy hit to the head has been noted, athletes can be evaluated properly before being allowed to continue. This allows even those who aren’t medical professionals to more accurately assess injuries in real time, giving everyone the potential to save a life.