The movie “Concussion” has brought the need for timely identification of potential traumatic brain injury in sports into the spotlight. In the US alone, more than 30 million people engage in high-risk sports, resulting in almost 4 million sports-related concussions per year. Half of these remain undiagnosed, and 5 million Americans suffer from permanent brain damage, with a total cost to society of over $60 billion! Head trauma from sports is also a multi-billion dollar cost to society every year and of tremendous trauma to these individuals. Scientific data from Virginia Tech and others clearly show that a high school football player, on average, receives 500 hits to the head per season, 10% of which are over 40G! Head trauma occurs when the brain smashes into the skull from a hit, and the higher G-forces, the higher risks for a concussion. Research has also shown that even if you don't have a clinical concussion, every hit matters. Until SISU Sense launched in the US in late 2019, there has been no device available to the public which can detect and report sub-concussion hits. With ten years as the safest and most comfortable sports guard behind us, we knew this was the next big step for a SISU Mouthguard. SISU Sense was ranked one of the top 10 best innovation at Consumer Electronics Show in 2019.
The diagnosis of concussions is still purely clinical and subjective. There are concussion assessment protocols used on the sidelines, but amateur athletes only go through these protocols if there are clear signs of injury. For players, parents, and coaches, who are not medical professionals, there is a tremendous need to have access to inexpensive, user-friendly, objective tools for early detection of head impact even at a primary and secondary school level where existing performance and impact detection systems are often cost-prohibitive.
SISU Sense incorporates electronics into an affordable custom-fit mouthguard with a proven track record for safety and comfort, which allows players to breathe drink and talk easily with no exposed parts protruding from the mouth. These mouthguards do not require coaches and players to get special training or having to bring specialised devices to the field. Current sensing technologies in sports are expensive, bulky and require excessive sideline equipment. SISU Sense will be the first device to give parents and coaches immediate information on how hard an athlete has been hit even during practice. The technology applies to all high-risk sports at any level. The data collected by SISU Sense can be downloaded via Bluetooth to smartphones that have the corresponding application installed and can be read on the smartphone by players, parents, and coaches. Parents and coaches can make immediate decisions whether to take the player off the field and, if indicated, bring the player to a physician for examination. The mouthguard is not intended to function as a diagnostic device, but merely as a warning device that a dangerous head acceleration has occurred.
Akervall Technologies already holds the patents for thin, custom-formable mouthguards with strategically placed impact-absorbing features that are incorporated into SISU Sense as well. Battery life is conserved thanks to a proprietary new concept for thermal activation of the electronic chip at the moment when the mouthguard is fitted. Thanks to the low power consumption of SISU Sense, only transmitting the most critical numerical information, the mouthguard will last a full season. The battery life matches well with the time frame when mouthguards need to be regularly replaced.
Several competitors have started to develop accelerometer-equipped mouthguards, but they try to capture too much data, which increases the need for larger batteries and raises the price for the products. In contrast, the SISU Sense approach is unique. SISU Sense is the first mouthguard that can be custom-fit by the user while all the electronics and the battery are safely encased in the polymer matrix. The competitors use traditional soft polymer technology that results in bulky and uncomfortable mouthguards. SISU Sense uses a proprietary thermoplastic material with superior tear strength that meets the FDA requirements of biocompatibility and non-toxicity.
SISU Sense was built with the athlete in mind. The device activates with heat; this ease of use feature allows the athlete to mold the mouthguard and activate the sensors in one step. SISU Sense is equipped with a three-axis accelerometer with a sensitivity of 98 mg/digit. With this accelerometer, the device can accurately detect and record impacts from two different force thresholds, a 15G minor impact threshold and a 40G major impact threshold. These threshold values are designed to capture significant impacts to the athlete’s skull. Once SISU Sense is paired with its partner app, the accelerometer can be turned on or off within the app, however data will be automatically downloaded to the smartphone whenever the device is in range and the app. The app itself also includes beneficial features that enhance the versatility of SISU Sense and allow the athletes to better use and understand the data that they have collected. This includes graphical displays of their data, a backup shut off system, an automatic emergency contact system, and a timeline to track and notate impacts.
Up until now, parents, coaches and players have had no way to detect how many dangerous, sub-concussion hits to the head a player has been subject to, but SISU Sense will fill that very important gap in the athlete’s safety. Every hit matters, so let’s start to keep track of them!
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