Two South Surrey businessmen

Concussion app aims to keep players safe

South Surrey businessmen lend expertise to students aiming to improve head-injury recognition

Ask anyone who has ever played a contact sport, and they’ll likely have a story or two about a time they – to use an outdated sports cliché – “had their bell rung.”

It wasn’t long ago that, in many such instances, the injured player would be sent back into the field of play without a second thought, and the word ‘concussion’ was rarely brought up.

Such moments are fewer and farther between these days, however. And now, a new mobile app being developed at UBC – and marketed with the help of two South Surrey businessmen – aims to help coaches and players properly assess concussions, all in real time.

The app – called HeadCheck Health – is the brainchild of Harrison Brown – a UBC PhD student – and UBC MBA graduate Kerry Costello. South Surrey residents Leon van der Poel and Praj Patel – both of Surrey-based consulting company Ineo Growth Strategizers – have teamed up with the pair, and are tasked with getting the app from the testing stage out into the real world.

The arrangement began last spring as part of a UBC program called Lean Launchpad, that aims to match students with real-world mentors, but Patel said the four of them got along so well, they decided to stay onboard after the program ended.

“We just really liked what they were doing, and we all got along well,” Patel told Peace Arch News. “So we’re working at it, and looking to get some real-world (data) collected.”

Right now, the app is being beta-tested by 30 sports team across the country – the specific teams are confidential, but cover a number of sports at various levels, Patel said – and the data from each team is being collected and analyzed.

The science behind the app, Patel said, “is pretty complex” but it is fairly practical in use. How it’s used is simple, he said.

Prior to beginning play, an athlete – wearing a headband containing sensors “no bigger than a watch battery” – will go through a number of tests to find baseline numbers for things such as balance, mobility and the like. The readings from the sensors are logged into the mobile app via Bluetooth, and saved.

Then, later in the season, if that player suffers a suspected concussion, he or she puts the headband back on and – on the sidelines – completes the same tasks. If the numbers are wildly different, it’s likely a concussion has been suffered.

The test takes no more than five minutes, Patel, an Ocean Park resident, added.

Patel said he and van der Poel were excited to be part of HeadCheck’s development, because it has the potential to take the guess-work out of coaches and players self-diagnosing potentially serious injuries.

“The thing is, athletes fake it sometimes – they tell their coach they’re fine because they want to get back out there and play,” said Patel, who played soccer while growing up in England and admits that “growing up, we all took the odd knock.”

“This app takes away the subjectivity because you can’t fake the sensor.”

So far, feedback from the various teams has been positive, he said. Once all the data and the feedback is collected, the Headcheck team will make whatever changes necessary, and hopefully have it out on the market later this year.

“The teams, they see the promise in this. And we want them to really do a deep dive with it and tell us how to make it better, and then get it out there, full volume,” Patel said.

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