Between CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) concerns among football players and a growing awareness of the dangers of concussions, there is arguably no bigger issue in sports than brain health.
And a group of New Jersey eighth-graders have come up with an idea that could help instantaneously detect concussions right on the field of play.
Last week, their brainstorm, called Head Safe, landed the students from Cavallini Middle School in Upper Saddle River a top prize in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest.
The nationwide competition is open to sixth- through 12th-graders and challenges them to use science, technology, engineering, arts and math to solve real world problems.
Their teacher Jonathan Harvey tells The Post that student athletes Jake Carlin, Alex Fisherman, Josh Chostaka and Ian Langan were inspired to create Head Safe after a friend sustained a scary concussion during a football game last fall.
“The kids and I discussed a project we wanted to tackle and it was during football season,” says Harvey. “We consulted with a doctor, a high school official and a software engineer while we were working on it.”
Together, the kids and their teacher then developed a sensor that is placed inside a football helmet and uses an accelerometer to detect a possible concussion based on the force of the hit.
The data is then sent through a Bluetooth device to an app, which alerts a coach when there is a potentially dangerous blow to the player’s head.
The sensor calculates linear acceleration and also records vibration and shock.
“They’re very science-minded and skilled academically,” says Harvey of his star pupils. “But they’re all passionate athletes, so it was a perfect match with this group.”
After beating out thousands of other entrants, Cavallini Middle School won $150,000 in Samsung technology and the company has invited the students to meet with top minds at the brand during the summer break.
Harvey hopes that one day, Head Safe could go to market.
“A lot of people ask why we don’t have this already. There is nothing specific out there in the market,” he says. “If there is a software development team in place, they could easily put this in any helmet because it’s so small.
“We’ve talked about the idea of putting them on headbands, too,” says Harvey. “The students seem very enthusiastic about continuing to work on this.”