Concussions continue to plague sports of all kinds, with occasionally tragic outcomes. A new piece of technology, unveiled at CES 2017, may be the key to catching concussions that would otherwise go undetected.
The Reflexion Edge, from the Reflexion Interactive Technologies, aims to shed light on some of the darker areas of concussion protocol that leaves mild concussions often undiagnosed—leaving an athlete exposed to potentially devastating, compounding effects down the line.
The system, which has been in development for more than a year, is a novel solution for testing a players' "neurocognitive and psychomotor performance." It uses a six-panel display that breaks down into a portable system that can follow teams on game day. When set up, it makes use of 2,500 sensor points that simultaneously test the functions correlated to concussions, including complex reaction time, memory, and peripheral awareness.
It's a relatively complex and comprehensive system, but you wouldn't know from looking at it. The Reflexion Edge has the appearance of a plain wall with lots of tiny, bright lights that illuminate across it.
That simplicity is by design, as it allows for a quick and easy test to be administered to players in an unobtrusive way—it takes just 30 seconds to run a trial—and can produce a result that may indicate the need for additional treatment.
A player will stand in front of the custom-designed touchscreen, which sports an array of full color LED that fills a user’s horizontal field of view, and is given a number of tasks to complete, including catching moving targets, distinguishing between patterns, and performing responses based on colors.
The concept behind the Reflexion Edge came after interviewing "countless athletic directors, coaches, and trainers" who pointed to a need for a protocol that could help spot concussions and could be used regularly, Reflexion co-founder Matthew Campagna told IBTimes.
"A portable, collapsible device would allow us to rapidly screen athletes after every game in order to detect mild concussions that would otherwise slip through the cracks," he explained.
The testing technique, called dual task, provides a number of data points at once. According to Campagna, the device can discern a user’s complex and simple reaction time, peripheral awareness, depth perception, memory and psychomotor response in a single trial.
Because the Edge can collapse into the size of a duffel bag, it can easily make trips with the team and be used on the fly. That easy access and quick testing capability makes it possible for teams to conduct ongoing tests of their athletes, monitoring a player's health over the course of a season rather than just in response to one hit.
Over time, the Reflexion Edge is able to build a profile of data about each player and compare the results of a single test to previous outcomes. This process "ultimately provides a determination of whether that student is safe to return to play," Campagna said.
Long-term monitoring of a player's health has become increasingly necessary as concerns over concussions have become more prevalent in youth sports. A study conducted by FAIR Health published in summer 2016 noted a 500 percent increase in concussion diagnoses among young athletes between the years 2010 and 2014—a finding that is encouraging in that it indicates an increased awareness of the problem, but troubling in just how common concussions truly are.
Reflexion Edge aims to help play a part in the ongoing efforts to catch concussion symptoms. In addition to its portable build, Campagna said the company plans to keep the price for the hardware to a minimum and offer a subscription model for the software in order to keep the cost as low as possible for schools.
With the device now out of its prototype phase, Reflexion is looking to test the true impact the Edge can have when put to use.
A clinical study will be run starting in early January of this year with athletes from Pennsylvania State University. According to Campagna, the first part of research will evaluate the Reflexion Edge's accuracy in measuring neurocognitive and psychomotor performance.
The second study will make use of athletes in sports with a high risk for concussions, including football, hockey, soccer, and rugby. It will examine concussed and healthy athletes to test the Reflexion Edge's ability to detect concussions and predict recovery time.
At the conclusion of the study, the group behind the device will hope to have proof of the tool's functionality. Then it's a matter of getting it onto as many sidelines as possible in order to help monitor and prevent undue neurological damage from aflicting athletes of all ages.