Will New Concussion Detection Technology Improve Treatment and Prevention in the NHL?

 

X2IMPACT, a Seattle-based company focused on the prevention of Real Sports Brain Injury (rSBI), has partnered with Bite Tech, Inc. to develop mouth guards and headbands that measure the impact of physical collisions during sports and relay the information wirelessly to third parties, like coaches, trainers, and family members.

“We are currently in testing phase with new technology that addresses the issue of concussions,” said a spokesperson for Bite Tech, Inc. Stanford University’s football, women’s field hockey, and  women’s lacrosse teams are team is currently wearing the new mouth guards in practice and in games, and university researchers are using the data collected to better understand the development of brain injuries. The mouth guards measure the force of head impacts, according to the company website.

X2IMPACT will be tasked with developing more technologies in the partnership, while Bite Tech, Inc. will be responsible for testing, manufacturing, and distributing the new products.

(X2IMPACT.com / X2 SOLUTION)

While no trials are currently underway in youth, amateur, or professional ice hockey, this new development could forge a new path in early detection of concussion injuries in NHL players. X2IMPACT is particularly concerned with youth sports (emphasis added):

To be truly effective, the system would have to neutralize the “don’t ask – don’t tell” culture of under-reporting [injuries], must maintain and support the aggressive spirit of contact sports, and must deliver at a price point accessible to High School, Youth, and NCAA programs.

The partnership’s emphasis on youth sports should encourage both parents and NHL fans alike. Early detection of brain injuries could ultimately improve the quality of life for hockey players around the globe, in addition to informing clubs about the need for additional treatments and time on the injured reserve list.

But beyond health awareness benefits and long-term quality of life improvements for players, technology of this kind could help NHL general managers in burgeoning markets (like the Nashville Predators) make better financial decisions when acquiring players with injury histories. Toronto Maple Leafs center Matthew Lombardi missed almost all of the 2010-2011 season due to concussion-related symptoms, and because he had a prior injury, the Nashville Predators’s insurance program did not pay Lombardi’s salary.

The top center free agent acquisition in the summer of 2010 has thus far opened the 2011-2012 season with two points (1G, 1A) in four games, playing just over 12 minutes per game. The Predators faithful — indeed, fans around the league — couldn’t be happier for Lombardi’s recovery, but many Nashville fans have no doubt wondered what might have been. With better data analysis about concussions, does David Poile pull the trigger on such a free agent acquisition? The hockey world may never know.

So too could new injury analysis help inform the league’s progressively strict stance on head shots and other forms of questionable contact. Generally, new NHL chief disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan is helping to move the league forward in the prevention of brain and other forms of head injury, but a new wave of data analysis could help both the league and the NHLPA better and more consistently define what constitutes dangerous contact that doesn’t belong in the game of hockey.

Here is a list of current NHL players out with concussions or concussion-like symptoms, though some have recently been cleared for contact and may soon return:

The Hockey Writers will continue to monitor the development of this new technology and report any developments. Stick tap: Laughing Squid

Update

Initially The Hockey Writers reported that Stanford University’s women’s field hockey and lacrosse clubs were participating in the X2IMPACT/Bite Tech Inc. mouth guard trials. A Bite Tech Inc. spokesperson confirmed via email that only the Stanford University football team is participating in the trial, and this piece has been altered to reflect this. We apologize for the error.

George Scoville
In his day job, George is a political consultant in Washington, DC. He grew up in the south, but has lived all over the country. He bleeds gold and blue for the Nashville Predators.

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