Researchers at Cleveland Clinic are taking the guesswork out of concussions.
With the commercial launch in January of an intelligent mouthguard, certified athletic trainers and sideline personnel can now be alerted in real time when an athlete has incurred a potential concussion-causing impact on the field – enabling them to assess the player immediately.
According to Jay Alberts, Ph.D., a researcher with the Lerner Research Institute and director of the Cleveland Clinic Concussion Center, the mouthguard technology eliminates the need to make speculative decisions with respect to head injuries. “Many ‘concussion protocols’ have subjective aspects which can compromise their value,” Alberts explains. “Our approach provides a more systematic and standardized method of objectively assessing a participant with concussion.”
Eight years in the making, the detection system uses a sophisticated, technology-enabled mouthguard that records every impact received to the head and accurately measures the factors that can determine whether a concussion may have occurred. That information – linear and rotational acceleration rates, impact location and direction — is displayed in real time on a mobile phone app, which alerts trainers or other personnel when an impact exceeds a pre-determined threshold.
Each year, about 3.8 million sports concussions occur but experts estimate that nearly 2 million more go undetected. Those statistics are worrisome, Alberts says, because concussions can result in a number of cognitive and behavioral problems that can worsen if the injuries go undetected and untreated.
“An electronically-enabled protocol using objective and quantitative outcomes coupled with clinical judgement is the best solution to ensure consistency in the evaluation of players,” he explains.
Cleveland Clinic’s research found that placement of impact sensors in a mouthpiece — as opposed to a helmet or other form of head gear — is the optimal method for detecting and accurately measuring head impact measurement. Several laboratory and human validation studies have confirmed this approach.