U.S. hospitals treat more than 173,285 sports-related brain injuries and concussions annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Concussions account for fully 15 percent of all reported injuries, says the American Journal of Sports Medicine. For a sports participant, parent, coach, trainer, or medical personnel, it can be difficult to ascertain the severity of head impacts. It’s also difficult but vital to know when to seek a medical assessment after an impact.
i1 Biometrics developed a miniature wireless helmet impact sensor called Shockbox. The device counts and measures impact in G-forces and sends a smartphone alert when a head impact is too hard. The sensors detects both the linear and rotational components of impacts. Shockboxes in a variety of colors are available for football, lacrosse, equestrian, hockey, and snow sports helmets. Most styles attach to the top of the helmet although the Shockbox for football fits inside the helmet. Powered by a lithium-ion battery good for up to 125 hours per charge, the Shockbox transmits a wireless signal up to 100 meters (328 feet) to paired smartphones. Because a single phone can track an unlimited number of Shockboxes, it’s possible to have a whole team monitored with one phone. All stored data can be exported to as spreadsheet files.
An after-impact app mini-SCAT (Sports Concussion Assessment Tool) runs on the smartphone. The mini-SCAT is intended strictly as a record-keeping tool and not as a substitute for a physician assessment. Modules include player reported symptoms (a checklist), randomized Maddocks and Cognitive Assessment questions, and a modified Romberg balance test. It’s worth noting that some experts believe that helmet-mounted sensors are not as accurate as those “attached” directly to the athlete’s head, such as in a mouth guard. This is because the helmet can move independently in relation to the head, and can result in over- or under-reporting the severity of an impact as experience by the player.
Using the Shockbox doesn’t diminish the risk of concussion or brain injury, but it may help parents, coaches, and participants know when medical assessment is required. The stored impact data may also aid healthcare professionals if a problem arises.