In I-Sport: How smart shoes powered by smart integrated electronic devices can enhance our sport activities and I-Sport: How smart sports equipment powered with smart integrated electronic devices can enhance our sport activities, Part 2 of this blog, I talked about a smart shoes solution and the PIQ and BLAST MOTION sports wearable devices as examples of promising electronic technology applications for improving the training activities of a runner, golf or a baseball player, both in terms of performance and safety. Electronics technology holds promises of increasing prevention of the consequences of traumas occurred during sports activities, and at the same time offers an interesting possibility: people who use wearable electronic devices are challenged to become more aware of their movements and activities throughout the day, making their lives more active and health oriented.
Safety first. The importance of this type of approach to sports is further underlined by the consideration that researchers in the medical sport sector are investigating–the effects of concussion on the human brain in sports like football, soccer, hockey, and even basketball, where this type of contact is most likely to occur (see Figure 1):
“Researchers have developed computational models designed to calculate the distortion of brain tissue that results from global head kinematics such as the acceleration or velocity associated with head impacts in sports … Impacts to the body, which occur frequently in such contact sports as football and ice hockey, can induce a whiplash-like movement of the head which may be able to generate high enough accelerations to cause injury without subsequent head impact, but the impact velocity to the body must be high. A more common concussion-causing scenario occurs when an impact to the body (i.e., person to person) causes the head to hit some other surface (i.e., boards in hockey or the playing surface in football).” (Source: “NCBI”).
The electronics technology applied to the realization of the X2 Biosystems (Source: x2BIOSYSTEMS)
Such is the focus of a collaboration between x2BIOSYSTEMS and STMicroelectronics: wearable electronic devices, the xPatch, containing ST’s MEMS motion sensing chips, ultra low-power STM32L microcontroller, SPIRIT1 low-power radio transmitter, as well as miniature power supply and battery-charging ICs, to track and record the status of the player’s brain (see Figure 2). The X2 xPatch monitors the impact each player experiences and transmits the data to X2’s Integrated Concussion Exam (ICE) software.
And this is not just for sports that require helmets; the xPatch is small and lightweight enough to wear inconspicuously behind your ear—about the size of a US quarter. (Source: STMicroelectronics)
The xPatch project (Source: STMicroelectronics )
Concussion data are recorded and sent to a smartphone with a dedicated app to manage the records and cross reference physical parameters like acceleration or pressure of the impact (see Figure 3).
In the instance of a concussion, the importance of early prevention is extremely high in order to prevent brain injuries. Research indicates that if a person has received just one concussion, they are 1-2 times more likely to incur a second one. If they’ve had two, then the chances they will have another likewise increases. And the results of concussions are cumulative: multiple concussions can lead to anything from mild cognitive impairments to chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Preventing brain injuries in impact sports, even for the weekend warrior, has become a high-technology, state-of-the-art necessity. I don’t know about you, but I need every brain cell I’ve got!
The IMS app by X2 Biosystems (Source: x2biosystems.com)
The block diagram of the LIS344ALH, an ultra compact consumer low-power three-axis linear accelerometer by STMicroelectronics inside the Xpatch system. (Source STMicroelectronics)
When applied to prevention of the consequences of contact sports, electronics technology could really improve the quality of our lives. What are your thoughts about the xPatch project? Do you think this solution will provide an effective long term prevention of brain injuries due to contact sports practices?
In the next part of this blog series, I will take a look at other, smart wearable gadgets that perfectly matches the “smart-sport” approach, allowing even those of us who are ‘weekend warriors’ to ‘up our game.’