The Super Bowl is known for more than advertisements and halftime performances. Interwoven into the game and sometimes, easily forgotten are the small skirmishes that take a terrible toll on athletes. At least that’s partly how Patrick Walsh ’19 sees it.
Alongside classes and extracurriculars, Walsh runs his startup, Reflexion Interactive Technologies for his portable concussion diagnosis device. This device, called Reflexion Edge, was programmed and prototyped by Walsh and his high school friends Matthew Campagna and Matthew Roda in their senior year.
The team drew inspiration from a substitute computer science teacher: their high school gym coach. Walsh considered just how impractical and expensive the current technology for diagnosing concussions is, especially since there is a need for such machines on the sidelines at all times. In contrast, the Edge is designed to measure an athlete’s neurocognitive and psychomotor status in 30 seconds.
Nearly 47 percent of all reported concussions come from high school football, closely followed by ice hockey and soccer. Existing technologies, such as the King-Devick test, ImPACT test, and BrainScope’s EEG technology, use single symptom diagnosis. These do not account for environmental conditions, making it hard to detect mild concussions.
Walsh’s experience with such injuries were not limited to football games on TV.
“Roda hit his head hard into the wall of the rink and the coach asked him typical questions like what the year was, who the president was, questions he was easily able to answer. So, he went back into the game,” Walsh said. “Turned out it was a high intensity concussion and he ended up spending over a month in recovery and missed over two months of school work.”
The team approached their computer science teacher to see if it was feasible to create an affordable, portable and more efficient device to detect concussions.
The device itself is a 6 by 2 feet custom-made touch screen with over 2,500 sensors and a LED array that fills the user’s view. The user interacts with lights on the screen, enabling a computer to record reaction times. The machine is designed to be used after practice and games. Essentially, this ensures that each athlete’s diagnosis is based off their own historical data. This data is also correlated with peripheral awareness, depth perception, memory and psychomotor response. Based on comparisons with average responses and with the athlete’s own data, the device determines whether it is safe for them to play.
“By using a player’s own data, mild concussions can also be caught. If the results of the test deviate from the player’s average, coaches know to refer the athlete to a neurologist,” Walsh said.
The prototype was assembled in panels, allowing it to be broken down for transport. It weighs about 20 pounds and can fit into a small duffle bag making it ideal for high school sport teams that travel on school buses. Its low cost — approximately $1,000 — makes it more affordable for monitoring athletes in local high school games, removing the need to spend on existing technologies that often cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Initially a project to fulfill a class requirement, the Edge and Walsh’s company has won several awards and presented at many conferences. From Jan 5 to 8, the team presented their prototype at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
“It was great practice to showcase our device, explain it concisely yet expertly and get media attention for what we’ve worked so hard on,” Walsh said.
Currently the company is working with Dr. Semyon Slobounov at Pennsylvania State University to conduct phase one clinical trials.
“Using the new data, we will take our device and begin running paid beta tests in high school athletic programs, probably by the start of the fall sports season,” Walsh said.