MSU professors invent a new way to identify sports head trauma

Posted at 2:00 PM, Jul 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-16 14:00:52-04

A small invention could have a huge impact on athletics. Michigan State researchers, Gary Blanchard and Markos Dantus, created a headband that can measure the severity of head impacts. The idea is to let coaches and trainers know when an athlete needs to get treatment.

"The way we see it is an extension to the clinical evaluation," says Markos Dantus, a chemistry professor at MSU, and one of the developers of the device.

The device is not meant to be a concussion indicator, but to show how hard a wearer gets hit. If the sensor shows a star and a circle, it's likely the player has sustained a concussion, and should then go to a doctor to seek treatment.

The design is meant to be simple and affordable.

"We set out at the beginning to make sure that this was going to be widely available to the people who needed it the most," says Gary Blanchard, also a chemistry professor and a developer.

Professional leagues like the NFL have doctors on the sidelines, but a high school football or soccer team might only have an athletic trainer.

"If a player is concussed, we want that to be known to the coaches, staff, physicians, as soon as possible," says Blanchard.

Which could change the game for youth athletics.

John Johnson of the Michigan High School Athletic Association says "anything that helps identify that a youngster may have sustained a concussion right now is a good thing."

That's because it's so vital to pull an athlete out of the game if they get one. Johnson continues:

"You don't want a kid to have something happen during the game, stay in the game, and be immediately confronted with second impact syndrome."

Which is partially why Blanchard and Dantus developed this device.

The creators have already seen the device work.

"During the spring [football] game, there was one player that received an impact that was sufficient, showed stars, and was sufficient to warrant clinical evaluation," says Blanchard.

Which means athletes should be safer on the sidelines once the device is released.