New technology developed at WMU could help detect athlete concussions

Updated: Tuesday, July 15, 2014
New technology developed at WMU could help detect athlete concussions story image

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A new piece of technology that's developed right here in west Michigan could soon be keeping athletes safe.
At Western Michigan University, a professor and team of students are working on sensors that can fit in any kind of helmet.

The goal is to use them to detect concussions right after a big impact.

It may not look like much at first glance, but the first test helmet could soon bring the latest in sports safety.

"It can be used for football and hockey helmets, as well as any other protective head gear," said WMU Professor Masood Atashbar.  

Lightweight and flexible sensors are placed in the lining of a helmet.

They send a wireless signal to an application on a smartphone or tablet.

"It measures and reports to the coaches any dangerous impact that athletes experience on their skull," Atashbar said.  

The program is so sharp, its creators say it can pinpoint how severe the hit was and where it happened.

Professor Masood Atashbar said this is vital information considering athletes don't always report injuries and may not even know they have a concussion.

"Coaches and parents can know that their kids have experienced a dangerous impact and they can act on it," Atashbar said.

The professor and several students have been working on the cutting edge design.

So far they've only done tests in the lab, like hitting the helmet with a hammer.

Students are excited they have access to this right here in Kalamazoo.

"The university has given us a lot of help in developing this technology. I'm very happy," said PHD student Binu Narakathu.  

The group has even started a company to promote the technology.

Right now they're pricing it at $100 each; that would include the sensors and app.

"Thinking about, okay, you can help protect these players on the field, that's pretty interesting because you're saving people's lives," said PHD student Ali Eshkeiti.

The next step is getting funding so they can do tests outside the lab with actual athletes.

Then they hope to get it out on the market.

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