WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Concussions in youth sports are becoming a bigger and bigger problem each year, but there may be a solution in the works, right here in Wilmington.
The problem with concussions is that many go undiagnosed due to lack of awareness and accurate diagnostic tools. A company here in Wilmington created a pair of apps to eliminate confusion and help empower parents. What was shrugged off as getting your bell rung, or shaking loose the cobwebs is now a serious matter with millions of concussions reported among youth athletes in the US each year.
“A significant amount of these individuals, up to about 75 percent is estimated, are actually mild in nature, and because they’re mild in nature, many of these individuals are not going to show up to be evaluated formally.” Dr. Len B. Lecci, UNCW Psychology professor, said.
That’s where the problem lies, due to the mild symptoms, many young players return to the field prematurely, which opens them up to worse issues.
“They dramatically increase the likelihood that you will have a more severe neurological problem later in life.” Dr. Julian Keith, UNCW Psychology Chairman, said.
There has never been a system in place that eliminated the concussion confusion surrounding the diagnosis, treatment and legal requirements of dealing with head injuries, until now.
“So what the SportGait has done is combined a few tests together to get objective data to have baseline data and if someone has a concussion you can diagnose concussions.” Dr. Sasi Taravath, Pediatric Neurologist.
Wilmington-based SportGait has done this by creating two apps. The parent app assesses signs of concussions and allows moms and dads to input symptoms to help get the athlete to the correct medical care.
“What we really want to do is make sure that concussion isn’t dealt with on the sideline,” Chris Newton, SportGait President and CEO, said. “It’s in the American medical system.”
Chris Newton and Tobin Geatz helped develop this app because they said most concussion apps only focus on either education or data capture. None have brought both together to focus on getting an athlete the right care when they cannot always get it.
“We wanted to put the focus on the 36 million youth athletes where there’s no medical people at their sporting events most of which are practices that happen during the middle of the week.” Geatz, Seahawk Innovation general partner, said.
“All of this allows for the proper management, both diagnosis and post care,” Lecci said. “That’s as important as we handle this after the fact so getting into medical professionals with professional level tests that are reliable and standardized.”
Those tests come from the second app from SportGait: The medical app. This app is used by medical professionals on the specific patient to get the data and information on exactly how the patient is doing.
“So now we’re given the tools where you can use data driven results to measure concussion and recovery of concussion.” Newton said.
This is done with the use of very specific sensors. Dr. Mark Williams created these small flat devices, no bigger than a watch, to study the gait known as the movements of the patient suffering from a concussion.
“These sensors create a tracing in the same way that an electrocardiogram gives a cardiologist a 12-lead EKG,” Dr. Williams said. “So that by capturing how you move it can give us insights in terms of orthopedic problems, neurologic problem, and fits perfectly in SportGait’s business model in coming up with an objective, wearable, non-evasive way to get some critical information.”
The test works by comparing a prior baseline study of the patient’s gait or by using normative data to compare movements following a concussion. This allows doctors to read results and make the right medical decisions.
“So now having a system like this you can absolutely measure when it’s safe to go back to not only play but to school.” Newton said.
The medical app is currently being tested for use paired with the parent app at Medac locations in Wilmington.
“If they do have a child that is injured, they have a place that they can come to that’s available to them, that’s a lesser cost to them, and we can actually put them into the pathway of managing the concussion protocol with different physicians that we work with locally to make sure that the child is taken care of properly.” Dale Key, Medac Health CEO, said.
A lot of worry surrounds children in sports, particularly football, due to findings Dr. Benet Omalu made on the dangers of concussions to the brain among NFL players. But newton, a parent of two youth athletes, hopes that with SportGait, that worry can subside.
“I think about all the life lessons and benefits that you get out of sports and I think that far outweighs the risks of injury, including concussion,” Newton said. “But we have to be smart about it, and now if we have the tools where we can measure, I think I feel a little bit better that my kids are playing at a high level.”
If you’d like to learn more or download the app, you can visit the SportGait website by clicking here.