By: Allan M. Siegel
Yes, four doctoral engineering students at Western Michigan University have created a smart helmet that senses when a potentially concussion causing event occurs. The helmets are fitted with sensors that wirelessly relay information to a smart phone or a laptop in real time. With this technology, coaches and trainers will immediately know when a player should be pulled from the game, and doctors will also have access to this information stored in a player's medical records.
The students' faculty adviser, Massood Atashbar, says that, "basically, this device or system would eliminate the possibility of inaccuracies from field judgments made by coaches, who rely on the self-assessment or self-reporting of players. The coach would receive real-time, actionable information when one of the players receives a potentially dangerous and serious impact to the head." The students recently formed a start-up called SafeSense Technologies LLC, to bring their product to the marketplace.
The students also envision other applications of this technology, particularly for our soldiers stationed overseas. Large numbers of soldiers returning from active duty have experienced traumatic brain injuries from improvised explosive devices or missile strikes. This technology would allow military doctors to properly evaluate the severity of the event, and to immediately provide specialized care to prevent or lessen post-concussive syndrome and multiple concussion syndrome. The students also hope to see their technology applied to hockey, skiing, lacrosse, and any other sport where a helmet is worn.
At CSCS, we understand the complexities of a traumatic brain injury. Partner Joseph Cammarata is a founder of the Brain Injury Association of DC which is dedicated to the research, prevention, and advocacy for brain injuries. He also drafted the Athletic Concussion Protection Act of 2011, which implemented return to play guidelines to protect athletes 18 years old or younger in the District of Columbia. The sensor technology in this new smart helmet could be a valuable tool to aid in the prevention of brain injuries from student athletes all the way up to the professional level.