Tag Archives: technology
An estimated 1.6 to 3.8 million traumatic brain injuries occur every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 75 percent of the injuries are sports-related mild traumatic brain injuries or concussions.
While this issue is being recognized at the professional and elite levels, many youth and collegiate athletic programs across the U.S. lack the adequate medical personnel, specifically concussion specialists, to handle these injuries on the sidelines in real time.
Doctors at Mayo Clinic, in collaboration with the Northern Arizona University football team, conducted a study, Feasibility and Accuracy of Teleconcussion for Acute Evaluation of Suspected Concussion, which was recently published in the journal Neurology. The study, funded by Mayo Clinic, focuses on concussion specialists using telemedicine technology to determine if a player needs to be removed from play in real time.
“Telemedicine has been shown to be a safe and effective means to evaluate and treat numerous acute neurologic conditions, including stroke,” says Amaal Starling, M.D., neurologist and concussion expert at Mayo Clinic. “Now, doctors are starting to explore using telemedicine to manage concussions.”
Dr. Starling and Bert Vargas, M.D., director of the concussion program at UT Southwestern Medical Center, evaluated 11 consecutive male collegiate football players who suffered from a suspected concussion over two football seasons. All athletes received face-to-face baseline examination scores, including a symptom severity checklist, Standardized Assessment of Concussion, King-Devick test, and modified Balance Error Scoring System.
In total, 123 athletes were enrolled in the study, 50 of whom participated through two seasons.
During two football seasons, athletes with suspected concussions were evaluated in person by Northern Arizona University medical personnel and certified athletic trainers. Simultaneously, Dr. Vargas or Dr. Starling would perform a concussion examination via a telemedicine robot.
“During the remote examination, we had the ability to ask additional questions and repeat any portion of the physical evaluation,” says Dr. Vargas. “The decision as to whether or not the athlete should be removed from play was made by both the athletic trainer and neurologist.”
Both physicians had high agreement with the evaluation scoring and 100 percent agreement of the most important decision — removal from play. This suggests neurologists may be able to use telemedicine to manage concussions, make removal from play decisions, and close the gaps in medical care by providing all collegiate and youth athletes similar concussion care as professional athletes receive.
To reduce the risk of concussion, researchers and others have sought ways to improve helmet technology as a way to resolve the problem.
A better solution may be to ditch the helmets altogether, according to a new study in the Journal of Athletic Training, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s scientific publication. Researchers investigated the effectiveness of helmetless tackling to reduce head-impact exposure in an NCAA Division I football program.
The study, partially funded by the NATA Research & Education Foundation, showed a 28 percent reduction in head impacts during practices and games. To review “Early Results of a Helmetless-Tacking Intervention to Decrease Head Impacts in Football Players,” please visit:
“Given proper training, education and instruction, college football players can safely perform supervised tackling and blocking drills in practice without helmets,” said Erik E. Swartz, PhD, ATC, FNATA, lead author of the study and professor and chair, Department of Kinesiology, University of New Hampshire. “This intervention also eliminates a false sense of security a player may feel when wearing a helmet. Younger players with less experience may require modifications to this intervention to realize a positive effect. While more research is needed, our results do show a reduction in head impacts during our one season of testing.”
The findings are from the first year of a two-year study in which 50 NCAA Division 1 football players at the University of New Hampshire were assigned to an intervention (25 athletes) or control (25 athletes) group. The intervention group participated in five-minute tackling drills without their helmets and shoulder pads as part of the Helmetless Tackling Training (HuTT) program. Drills occurred twice per week during preseason practices and once per week throughout the competitive season (16 weeks). The control group performed noncontact football skills with no change to their routine. All athletes were provided head-impact patch sensors worn on the skin and new helmets. Both groups were supervised by members of the football coaching staff. At the end of the season, the intervention group experienced an average 30 percent fewer impacts per exposure than the control group.
The notion of removing the football helmet for discrete and regular periods during practice to reduce head impact is counterintuitive to the sport, wrote the authors. “These findings elucidate the risk-compensation phenomenon and may help explain the behavior of spearing and the rise in catastrophic neck and head injuries that followed,” they added. “A football helmet is designed to protect players from traumatic head injury, but it also enables them to initiate and sustain impacts because of the protection it affords. While improving protective equipment in and of itself will not resolve the risk of concussion and spine injury in football, the solution may be found in behavior modification.”
High school and college football players can each sustain more than 1,000 impacts in a season, while individual youth players may sustain 100 during that same timeframe according to the study. “The extent to which this intervention may yield similar outcomes in younger players with less experience is still unknown. We are currently in the first year of a high school study focused on four high schools in New Hampshire,” adds Swartz.
“Should future research replicate our findings, the eventual adoption of helmetless-tackling training may improve public health and decrease the associated economic burden by reducing football-related head and neck injuries and the risk of long-term complications.”
A New Mexico State University researcher and an engineering graduate student have partnered with Arrowhead Center’s student business incubator, Studio G, to further develop a protective shield technology that could help reduce concussions and even save lives. The partnership is supported by a $50,000 award from the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps program.
The technology is based on a damage-trap material interface researched and developed by Roy L. Xu, a research associate professor in NMSU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. In 2002, while working on his doctorate thesis research at the California Institute of Technology, Xu discovered a very thin interface bonding that could stop impact damage of layered brittle polymers subjected to an impact speed up to about 100 miles per hour.
“Bullet proof materials such as Kevlar usually have a low resistance to a sharp knife,” Xu said.
The damage-trap material interface, or DTMI, when combined with other polymers, can mitigate that weakness – and is light and cost-effective enough for use in shields for backpacks and cases for laptops and tablets.
Motivated by concern about violent incidents in the news, including shootings at Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook Elementary School, as well as a knife attack in China, Xu saw an opportunity to improve on the $300 to $400 bulletproof backpacks currently available.
“I visited Virginia Tech only one week before the deadliest shooting incident in U.S. history,” Xu said. “I visited the building and the same professor who had saved student lives.”
The researcher and father of an elementary-aged child calls the interface material a “magic adhesive.”
When used as part of a hybrid material with bulletproof materials like Kevlar and knife-proof materials like polycarbonate aluminum, the DTMI can successfully stop impact damage, increasing the effectiveness of the hybrid material.
NMSU chemical engineering graduate student Brian Patterson is working with the technology through Studio G, and pursued the I-Corps funding opportunity with Xu and Studio G Director Kramer Winingham. The goal is to commercialize the lightweight and affordable material.
“Business ideas that are presented through this program have a direct impact on research and development and are closely related,” Patterson said. “Therefore, it’s important to understand the business components as they dictate the R&D direction.”
The team interviewed 100 potential customers to gain a better understanding of the market for their technology.
The I-Corps program and activities prepare scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and broaden the impact of their projects. One of the I-Corps objectives is to have an entrepreneurial student who shows potential in business and technology handle the commercialization.
“I-Corps is a tremendous program that teaches students how to be entrepreneurs,” Winingham said. “Brian, as the entrepreneurial lead for our team, has done an outstanding job and has learned a lot. Based on his efforts, I believe Dr. Xu’s technology is significantly closer to market.”
The DTMI material also has applications in football helmets and could help reduce concussion risk for players. The helmet shell materials with DTMI designs could increase impact-energy absorption at least 130 percent, compared to the current shell materials.
“A key finding during the I-Corps program was the opportunity for an advanced helmet shell design that could reduce concussions and adapt to other helmet technologies,” Winingham said. “This appears to be the best initial application for Dr. Xu’s technology.”
As a result of the I-Corps program and the helmet shell design, Xu has been invited to submit a full-technical proposal, in collaboration with researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, to the third NFL Head Health Challenge, an open competition to advance materials that better absorb or dissipate energy.
“Dr. Xu’s technology offers some exciting capabilities,” said Winingham. “Our challenge was identifying the best use for those capabilities, and through Brian’s hard work and resourcefulness, we identified the most promising applications and gained a lot from the I-Corps program.”