Medical-grade biosensors are making it easier and less expensive to protect youth athletes from damaging head trauma, thanks to companies like X2 biosystems. Seattle-based X2 was founded when Rich Able turned to Christoph Mack after Rich’s son suffered a concussion playing high school football. Today X2 offers the X-Guard, a mouth guard-based sensor, and the X-patch, a sensor that can be worn comfortably behind the user’s ear—both of which use the company’s proprietary head injury prevention software to track impacts to each athlete’s head.
These types of technologies have been used for years by some Division I football teams in order to protect student-athletes, and all NFL teams will use X2 software to track players in the upcoming season. But what makes X2’s devices truly remarkable is their accessibility. X2 ‘s solutions are powerful yet user-friendly and inexpensive enough to make this potentially life-saving technology available to a wide range of athletic programs, including youth athletic teams. No other group is more at risk, yet these teams are the most underfunded.
Researchers from Ohio State estimate that 300,000 sport-related brain injuries occur in the United States every year, accounting for nearly 10% of all youth sport related injuries. While concussion coverage may be most visible in the NFL, head injuries affect more youth athletes than any other group. The software suite provided by X2 tracks athletes over time and throughout games to monitor for dangerous, repetitive hits that can cause permanent damage, alerting coaches when a player should be removed from a game.
But once an athlete has been removed from play, how can coaches and parents know when it is safe for them to return to the field? For the answer, we look to our phones. A balance-assessment app from Sway Medical recently secured FDA approval and $750,000 in angel-round funding for further development. This free app allows healthcare professionals to prescribe and evaluate balance tests that, among other things, can be used to determine when it is safe for a concussed athlete to return to play.
What makes these solutions exciting is not just their powerful injury-prevention technology, but the fact that this technology is easily and inexpensively attainable. The useful applications of these technologies need not end with athletics, however. Soon, caretakers of the elderly may use these sensors to remotely detect and evaluate the severity of a fall, speeding medical attention. It is also likely that impact-detecting technologies similar to these will show up in vehicles, providing first-responders with valuable insights into the severity of a collision and the impact on each passenger. X2 and Sway are getting us closer to taking the guesswork out of head injuries, on and off the field, undoubtedly an extremely valuable and necessary application for motion-sensing devices.