In October 2006, a 13-year-old Washington state middle school football player named Zackery Lystedt collapsed from a traumatic brain injury that left him permanently disabled, after being allowed back on the field just 15 minutes after suffering a concussion in the same game.
In 2009, thanks in large measure to the efforts of Dr. Stanley Herring at the University of Washington Medical School, Washington state passed the Zackery Lystedt Concussion Safety Law, making it the first state in the country to enact legislation to reduce the incidence and risks of concussion in youth athletics.
In late 2007, another young Washington state athlete, Kyle Able, was knocked unconscious during a high school football game. In the months afterward, the effects of the concussion lingered; his grades dropped, his mood shifted, behavior changed, and his attention span all but disappeared. Kyle’s father Rich, a 27 year veteran of the medical device business, mobilized a team of engineers and scientists to address the problem, leading to the founding of X2 Biosystems in 2010.
After validating the widespread need for a comprehensive solution that would combine both head impact monitoring and neurocognitive testing, the X2 team became aware that single big hits were not the only danger to young athletes, but that multiple, repeated, “sub-concussive” hits could also contribute to long-term damage to players’ brains. It also became clear that dangerous hits are dramatically under-reported by players and under-recognized by sideline staff.
It seemed logical at first to tackle the problem by embedding sensors into helmets. However, observations and testing in the lab and on the field soon confirmed that the motion of a helmet, by design, is often very different from the motion of the wearer’s head (try Googling on images of “helmets knocked off athletes’ heads”, for example). Data from helmet-mounted sensors have now been shown by many groups to be unreliable if the measured head impact dynamics are to be used to assess corresponding concussion injury risks; this task requires much better coupling of the sensor to the head.
Since 2010, X2 has pioneered the development and commercial deployment of miniaturized wearable impact sensors that are able to measure both the linear and rotational motion of the head due to impacts with sufficient accuracy, sensitivity, and reproducibility to determine concussion injury risks. Along the way, X2 has shown that the two wearable impact sensor form factors that can most effectively provide the required coupling to the head are mouth guards fitted to the upper teeth, and skin-affixed patches worn on the mastoid process (the bony protrusion of the skull that extends down behind the ear). Skin-affixed sensors have the benefit that they can be manufactured at much lower cost, are more universally applicable, and do not suffer the rapid degradation observed with mouth guards due to athletes “chewing” on them.
Concussions have now become recognized as an enormous public health challenge; as of July 2014, youth concussion safety laws have been introduced in all 50 states. With growing international support for similar legislation, organizations around the world face serious challenges in complying with concussion safety requirements and protecting the brain health of hundreds of millions of athletes, soldiers, and workers. These challenges cannot be addressed without tools that enable real-time monitoring of head-impact events, reduction of concussion risks and the incidence of injuries, and more effective detection and management of concussion injuries when they do occur.
Today, the range of athletic and military deployments of X2’s wearable impact sensors is unmatched by any other company in the world, and the data being gathered from these devices is already contributing significantly to a more comprehensive understanding of how to diagnose, manage, and in many cases even reduce the incidence of concussions.
Our goal is to provide effective and economically viable concussion safety solutions for the tens of millions of young athletes who benefit in many important ways from participating in sporting activities, the millions of active and reserve military personnel who defend us, and the millions of other athletes, industrial workers, and civilians who are exposed to a wide variety of impact-related concussion risks.
Please let us know if you can help.