Top 10 Innovations for 2012
#3 Concussion Management System for Athletes
The leading cause of traumatic brain injury is car accidents. Number two on the list is concussions suffered while playing sports. Highcontact sports such as football, boxing, soccer, lacrosse, wrestling, rugby, and ice hockey pose a high risk of a closed head injury, even when protective headgear is used.
What the blunt force trauma or abnormal movement of the head does is rapidly accelerate the athlete's brain against the inner wall of the skull in a rotational pattern. This movement twists the brain, and it's forces like these that the brain tolerates least. The bruising and stretching of brain tissue can result in a momentary separation from consciousness. In addition, repeated minor concussions can lead to dementia later in life.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculates that almost four million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur each year-and they exact a heavy toll. There are about 235,000 hospitalizations and 50,000 deaths annually due to concussions. Estimates suggest that up to 40 percent of football players experience a concussion annually, with the majority of these sports brain injuries going unreported, unrecognized, and unmanaged.
You don't have to be "knocked out" to have a concussion. In fact, fewer than 10 percent of concussions result in loss of consciousness. Concussion symptoms vary depending on the degree of severity. Symptoms of a mild concussion can include confusion, nausea, blurred vision, loss of memory of the event, ringing in the ears, and vomiting.
And if an athlete returns to the game too soon before the symptoms of concussion have disappeared and the brain is healed, the results can be deadly. When someone sustains a second trauma to the head-it's called second impact syndrome-while not yet recovered from a previous concussion, it can result in a potentially lethal cascade of events that causes rapid brain swelling and death. Head injuries are now such a major medical concern in sports that special patient management tools have been developed. Used by athletes, they instantly detect brain injuries at the moment of contact, and provide patient-specific guidance about when athletes can return to play without risk of further harm.
The novel Concussion Management System includes a special assessment tool that is used to establish an athlete's baseline cognitive and motor skills at the beginning of his or her athletic season. This is the first tool that objectively and accurately assesses cognitive and motor function simultaneously.
During practice sessions and games, the athletes use a special instrumented mouthguard dosimeter that records all hits to the head. The mouthguard looks exactly like an ordinary sports model but with a big difference: It's able to monitor all the energy imparted by a blow to the head of any kind, recording and reporting this impact data via Bluetooth technology in real time.
Following a traumatic brain injury event detected by the mouthguard, the cognitive assessment test is retaken. The team doctor and athletic trainer can then use this important information to manage and gauge the athlete's eventual safe return to physical activity.