Concussions account for almost one in ten sports injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and for young people ages 15-24, sports are second only to motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of brain injury. Many sports related concussions go unnoticed since the pressure to perform and retain a spot on the team often prevents the athletes from diagnosing and treating head injuries. Now, a research team led by Daniel Goble from San Diego State University has set out to change the landscape of concussion diagnosis. The team has developed software and an inexpensive balance board called B-TrackS that can measure balance with 99 percent accuracy on the field and in the clinic. The team is now testing the device on the University’s rugby team, with the hope of making it available worldwide to athletes of all ages and levels at a fraction of the cost of currently available force plates.
Balance testing is commonly used to recognize concussions. However, popular concussion tests rely on a trainer’s ability to count visible errors and deviations in the movement of players’ hands and feet. Force plates are also used as a form of measurement, but can cost up to $10,000 per plate. Goble partnered with SDSU’s College of Engineering and the Zahn Innovation Center to create the technology. The B-TrackS board works similarly to the current test, requiring athletes to stand on the board and conduct a series of movements based on balance control. Instead of an athletic trainer determining how many “errors” occur, the board will measure how much athletes sway, and give objective data determining their condition. The device can interface with a tablet on the sidelines of a football field to instantly diagnose concussions to prevent athletes from returning to action prematurely. Goble hopes to make the device affordable enough (around $1000) for practical implementation in high schools and universities.