Aug 19, 2015High Tech Concussion Detection
Athletic trainers and other sports medicine professionals may soon have another weapon in their fight to identify athletes with concussions. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania say they have produced a thin, lightweight polymer that will change color when exposed to the kind of forces that can cause concussion. They hope this material can be incorporated into protective equipment to signal to coaches and athletic trainers when a player has suffered a hard blow and should be evaluated for signs of a brain injury.
According to ScienceDaily, the researchers presented their findings at the 250th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Boston earlier this week. They started with photonic crystals that they designed to be a specific color and that would change when a damaging force was applied. Since these crystals are too expensive for mass production, they turned to a different process of molding a polymer to work like the crystals.
The researchers then applied varying amounts of force to the polymer crystal and recorded the color change. The results were encouraging. “We were able to change the color consistently with certain forces,” said Shu Yang, one of the research group’s leaders. For example, applying a 30 mN force—approximately the force of a sedan moving at 80 miles per hour crashing into a brick wall—caused the crystal to change from red to green. A force of 90 mN—the equivalent of a speeding truck hitting that same wall—turned the polymer purple, added Younghyun Cho, another member of the research team.
The researchers are looking for ways to incorporate this material into headgear since it is lightweight and requires no power source to detect forces. In addition to measuring the extent of forces felt, they also plan to look for ways to indicate how quickly these forces are applied, which can affect how damaging a particular injury may be.
A full video from the press conference announcing their findings is available here.