Traumatic brain injuries are among the most common hazards athletes face. Yet many TBIs go unreported because coaches — and even athletes themselves — avoid coming forward to complain. Cultural barriers sometimes also prevent athletes from getting the proper care, but the constraint is generally a lack of proper information.
Helmet-mounted accelerometer technologies may be able to help athletes avoid or minimize damage from cranial impacts, but the limitations of these technologies (at least currently) are significant. Helmet-mounted accelerometers often provide junk data, because they are placed improperly or they shift from optimal positioning. Furthermore, these helmets may be bulky, which discourages their use. Lastly, many sports, such as soccer and field hockey, still do not require helmets, even though head injuries are prevalent in minor and major league play.
Contemporary Mouth Guards and Sports Safety Research
Force Impact Technologies has developed a mouth guard that measures impacts and sends data instantly via Bluetooth to coaches and safety personnel. The FITGuard provides Stanford-University-tested-and-approved data that can determine whether a player is at risk for a concussion. Placing the accelerometers closer to the rear molars, which are attached to the base of the skull, will allow for better, clearer detection. This strategy provides scientifically sound information to officials on the sidelines, who need to make decisions about whether to leave players in a game or take them out.
Based on biometric information from individual players, the FITGuard determines whether the impact of the injury has exceeded the preset safe threshold for the athlete. The impact data is instantly transmitted to a smartphone application nearby, and an LED display on the front turns green if the player is safe and red if not.
The Future of Concussion Detection
If the company’s Kickstarter campaign is successful, FITGuard will soon be sold in retail outlets. With this technology in hand, sports teams may be able to dramatically reduce risks of traumatic brain injury and damages. We’ll hopefully see more exciting developments in this area, as medical science continues to research the relationship between impacts and brain injuries.