New device helping to detect concussions and keep athletes safe

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Big hits are a big part of football, but many bring big injuries in the form of concussions.

Now there's a new product that may help protect players and it's as easy as buckling your chin strap.

"We hope to be another tool in the tool box that people can reach for when they want to take that extra step to protect their kids," said Chris Circo, CEO of Battle Sports Science.

Concussions are happening at a faster rate. More than 173,000 happen a year for kids 19-years old and under according to the center for disease control.

"My head has vibrated back and forth it's kind of set me dizzy here and there," said Nolan Keller, youth football player.

Eighth grader Nolan Keller has been playing football for several years. According to Dr. Lori Shutter, a neurologist at U. C. Hospital, Nolan is the type of player most at risk.

"Their brains are not completely developed yet," said Dr. Shutter.

And the number of injuries to under-developed brains is growing as emergency room visits are up 60-percent in the last decade. But the bigger concern is that many more go un-detected.

"We were able to correlate what was going on in the chin to what is going on in the center of gravity in the head," said Circo

Circo, The CEO of Battle Sports Science thinks his company may have an answer, A chin strap he says can help detect concussion grade hits to the head.

"We've impacted this device a number of times in the lab," said Circo

The device was tested throughout a 2 1/2 year period at Wayne State University's Bio-Engineering Lab. When the device is on, a green light is illuminated. The device turns red once hit with enough force to generate a concussion. But Dr. William Knight from the neuro critical care unit at UC Hospital has a concern.

"If I have this on my chin, what happens if I get hit in the back of the head, what happens if I get hit on the side of the head," said Dr. Knight.

Despite some of the concerns our doctors have about the device they agreed it's a step in the right direction.

"Parents may want to consider this, consider devices like this," said Dr. Shutter.

And most importantly the chin strap can be an extra pair of eyes for parents, coaches and even the players.

If the light goes red are you going to take yourself out of the game?

"I would consider it, because I'm thinking about my best interest, as much as I want to stay out there, I know it's good for my health to come out if I have a concussion," said Keller.

The neurologist FOX!9 talked to for this story had other concerns. We asked Battle Sports Science to address these concerns. There answers are in bold print.

1)      Since the product is on the chin, what happens if the athlete gets hit on the back or side of the head. Will the indicator pick up those hits? Yes, we have placed multiple accelerometers in the device that detects hits from every angle.

2)      Your product's sensitivity is set conservatively, will the indicator pick up the weaker hits that don't generate the impact factor but can certainly lead to a concussion? No, we had to select a threshold that was appropriate based on scientific research and studies. If we were to indicate at every impact level, the device would be constantly indicating with few, if any, injuries. Almost all field studies show concussions occurring above the levels we have currently set. Although it happens, the studies show very few impacts below our threshold that result in concussion. We are very clear to everyone involved that the Indicator will not indicate below our threshold and everyone must remain vigilant in terms of watching for the signs of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) at all times. 

3)      Also, one neurologist has concerns about the product location on the chin, stating "the forces generated to the lower part of the jaw, may not always be the same forces that the brain is absorbing." The basis for our product and its functionality is our ability to correlate what happened at the chin back to center of gravity in the head (CG). The doctor is right. That's why we had to correlate the software to read from the chin back to the force at CG. The correlation work was repeatable and accurate. This is the basis for our products functionaIity.

4)     Does the impact indicator create a false sense of security? If a player receives a big hit and the light remains green, does it set an athlete up for more severe injury because they stay in the game? It is our belief that a player is at more risk for a severe injury if a head injury is not detected at all. Without the IMPACT INDICATOR, the likelihood of that is much higher. Wouldn't we choose to have a device to take an extra step in detecting the probability of a serious head injury vs. not? Our IMPACT INDICATOR is calibrated at a conservative level based on research provided by Wayne State University. If the LED light does not flash red, the impact on the field did not register at levels identified through these studies as impacts forceful enough to potentially cause a concussion. Hard hits are going to occur and as we've heard from countless coaches and trainers, the biggest issue in youth sports is that kids will not take themselves out. Feedback like this tells us that there's already a false sense of security issue with kids. The fact that these players are young and have a feeling that they are invincible, is an issue that we believe the IMPACT INDICATOR can be one part of the solution to help coaches and trainers identify a potential head injury and take action. The avoidance of false-positives have been and will continue to be a major focus for us with the IMPACT INDICATOR which is why our company went through the process of working with Wayne State University and put the IMPACT INDICATOR through the most intensive testing in the sports industry. The G-force thresholds set on the IMPACT INDICATOR are a result of these studies.

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