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Concussion expert weighs in on sensor technology

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AKRON, Ohio - While the Reebok CHECKLIGHT, Impakt Protective Shockbox and Riddell InSite are relatively new to the market, sensors have been gathering head impact data for years on the playing field, the battlefield and in laboratories.

"So, we are open to these add-ons or sensors.  We think they could be something that hold promise in helping us find concussed athletes, but on the other hand we have to be a little guarded, too.  You can't just throw something out there and know exactly how it is going to work and how beneficial it is going to be," said Akron Children's Hospital's sports medicine director Dr. Joe Congeni.

Concussions have become a huge concern among those in the medical community, especially the large number of concussions that go undiagnosed or undetected each year.  While sensors are designed to alert on hits that could lead to concussion, Dr. Congeni says more research is needed.

"There is just such a big piece that is unknown to put kids in these things right now and say that they are going to be the end all be all is concerning to us and I know people don't want to hear that, but you just can't speed up research," said Dr. Congeni.

Dr. Congeni has three main concerns.  The first concern is the accuracy of the sensors to account for rotational hits, which can be just as dangerous, if not more dangerous than a direct hit.  The second concern is the lack of research surrounding injury thresholds, essentially what triggers a device to send an alert.  The third concern is the idea people will rely solely on the device, even though each company makes it clear the sensors are not a diagnostic tool and they should not replace medical personnel.

"For people who are going to use just the sensors to say this kid is concussed or not, may there be some false negatives where the sensor doesn't tell you anything, but the kid is concussed, but the kid is told to continue to play because their red light is not on," said Dr. Congeni. "On the other side is false positives of some kids who are going to come up in the red light category and may have nothing to do with the clinical evaluation, clinical presentation of what should be a concussion."

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