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Stanford Using Sensor-Packed Mouthpiece to Study Concussions

Sensor mouthpiece (Norbert von der Groeben/Stanford University)

Sensor mouthpiece (Norbert von der Groeben/Stanford University)

Football and other athletes at Stanford University in California are wearing mouthpieces equipped with sensors to measure the force of head impacts during games and practices. The devices (pictured right) are manufactured by Seattle-based X2 Impact, which has donated the devices for the research.

The mouthpieces will collect data for a study led by Dan Garza, a professor of orthopedic surgery at the Stanford School of Medicine, that aims to better understand what sorts of football collisions cause concussions. The research also hopes to find if there are any positions or particular plays associated with a greater risk of these traumatic brain injuries.

The device contains accelerometers and gyrometers that measure the linear and rotational force of head impacts. The researchers also plan to collect head-impact data from the Stanford women’s field hockey and lacrosse teams, whose members soon will be outfitted with the devices.

A concussion, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works. Concussions can also occur from a blow to the body that causes the head to move rapidly back and forth.

The injury is generally understood to involve the short-term impairment of cognitive function, causing symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, headache, fatigue, sensitivity to light and noise, slurred speech, and temporary amnesia. The CDC reports that athletes who have ever had a concussion are at increased risk for another concussion.

Garza plans to use traditional diagnostic tools — such as the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 2 questionnaire routinely given to athletes suspected of having sustained a concussion — with an expected mountain of data from the study to help establish clinically meaningful criteria for diagnosing concussions. “We need to get a better understanding of the epidemiology of these injuries,” says Garza.

“That will involve correlating the magnitude of impacts with associated morbidities, he adds, “like the number of days lost to injury, as well as looking at players’ head trauma histories to determine possible cumulative effects.”

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2 comments to Stanford Using Sensor-Packed Mouthpiece to Study Concussions

  • Ward Hallock

    I have a keen interest in the advancement of both the medical and sports training
    knowledge of head injuries. First they need to be more rapidly reported, which looks like is happening. Second, both the medical specialists, coaches, parents, and athletes need to determine what is in the best interest for the athlete.

    I am open to volunteering my services to a reputable research firm to help accelerate the advancement of higher quality responses and therapies.

    Sincerely, Ward Hallock

  • Thanks Ward for your comments and for reading Science Business. Here are the Web pages for Dan Garza at Stanford University and Ann McKee at Boston University, both of whom are doing research on concussions and traumatic brain injury. Good luck.