Playing Rugby I see the effects head injuries have on teammates and fellow players from an up close perspective. I have witnessed problems from affected players that scare me to action. Concussion has lots of attention in the media yet we have nothing available on the market that is taken seriously enough to prevent or aid recovery. If you suffer a head injury resulting in concussive symptoms, the recommended treatment is just rest and wait for your brain to recover. With minor and physical injuries being cut in times of recovery and advanced treatment. Brain injury is still relatively misunderstood and far less advanced as other medical diagnosis.
With youth participation dropping because of the fear of serious life changing injuries to the brain, contact sports such as rugby are being directly affected. I want to create a baseline level of care that will aid the knowledge and research for better understanding and recognising head injuries. The duty of care for such a threatening injury must be increased to prevent the sport from serious issues in the future and declining participation numbers. The benefit of playing team sports such as rugby should be accessible without fear of injury.
Our initial research into concussion awareness on the market showed a glaring hole at youth rugby level and contact sports. This was the recognising of head impacts during the game on field and in training. Players are assessed by their reaction and showing any signs of symptoms which must be recognised by the referee or member of coaching staff.
HIT aims to recognise Head Impacts by reading the force applied through the head area and flagging up large impacts. The aim of this system is to indicate the potential risk of injury before the player shows any signs of symptoms. Removing the risk and grey area in recognising concussive injuries to the head.
HIT does not claim to recognise concussions it wants to recognise the impact before one happens, monitoring head impact force throughout the wearable time of the device. Although very rare, repetitive head knocks can amount to a much more serious injury than concussion, known as second impact syndrome which can be fatal. Players in the national football league, NFL, claim that during a game they refer to a big hit as having your ‘bell rung’. The attitude to brain injuries is getting more serious but HIT aims to change the perception of head injuries and raise the awareness of the effects it can have if gone misdiagnosed or missed.
HIT can remove a player from the game to be assessed without showing any symptoms of concussion, with minimal disruption to the game. The added level of care is a necessity in risk assessment for young athletes playing contact sports and the further understanding of concussion. The data collected could also aid in the diagnosis of injury and recommendation of treatment from neurologists who can better assess the situation and injury.
What makes HIT unique is the way the design represents itself to the audience. As much as collecting and transferring data in live time to coaches and players. HIT specifies as an indicator of head impacts, by visible emitting light when sensing a head impact force over the calibrated g-force.
Similar to putting your hand up in class or in ancient times a centurion’s red plume on the helmet, the light indication catches the attention of all in the vicinity. This, indicating to everyone that the wearer has suffered such an impact.
By visibly emitting a signal, HIT allows everyone to see the results of said event. Not any one person has the responsibility to act or not. By removing this bias creates a safer environment in protecting players.
The design itself is unique in the way it connects to headgear. The design ergonomics adapt to the curvature of the head and moulds to the user’s shape, via the adaptive Velcro. Using TPU plastic is essential in being rugged but also protective to users who come into contact with it. the material also lends its protective elements to encasing the inner mechanics of the device.
By creating a device that sits on or within the headguard rather than other designs which incorporated mouthguards and ear clips. The idea for the design is to actively mimic the movement of the brain inside the skull. The best way for this we found was to attach to the head directly. Mouthguards, although connected to the upper jaw and as such mimic most movement, research showed players and parents caution at putting electronics inside their mouth and body.
The decision to attach to the headguard was based off the educated assumption that youth rugby players will soon have to mandatory wear headguards which can reduce head impacts up to 47% up to age 16 (school level). This is already the case in Japan and on average, more youth players are taking up wear at younger entry level. By incorporating a headguard you are attaching a recognition aspect to an established certified protection product already available on the market. As an entry level recognition prototype this would be the least invasive way of introducing such a product to the game.
Head Impact Trauma Limited