According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), as many as 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions happen every year. And that’s just in the United States. It’s no surprise that many people are working hard at identifying potentially damaging blows to the head in sports, from youth teams to the professionals. We saw a number of new products addressing this problem at CES 2015, and one of them was the FITGuard from Force Impact Technologies. This device is different from many other head-mounted impact trackers (such as the Jolt) in that the detection components are contained within a mouth guard.
This design choice makes a big difference according to some experts. This places the sensors closer to the center of the skull, and as a result give a more accurate measure of movement and acceleration. Devices mounted on a headband or helmet have the addition problem of slipping in relation to the head, and not providing an accurate reading. According to representatives from Force Impact Technologies, their product detects not just linear acceleration (along a straight line), but also rotational forces that can cause the skull to twist around the brain.
The FITGuard uses Bluetooth to communicate with smartphones and tablets, so that parents, coaches, and trainers can monitor individual athletes during the course of practice and games. Furthermore, the mouth guard contains LED lights that will glow blue after a “medium” impact and red after a “severe” blow. This is not a diagnostic tool, but rather indicates whether or not the player needs additional evaluation before continuing the activity. The system allows the settings to be adjusted for each individual, based on sex, age, and size. They plan to ship the product by September 2015 at a cost of about $100.
The company hopes to build a database of information about head impacts that can be used by researchers to better understand the long-range effects of lesser blows to the head. At present, however, they do not have plans combine their data with that from other concussion tracking devices, so it remains to be seen if they will be able to accumulate a useful amount of information.