According to the CDC, concussions affect an estimated 1.6-3.8 million individuals each year. The rate for athletes –arguably, the most high-risk demographic –is even more staggering: 5-10% will sustain concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries in any given season. Given how devastating such injuries can be in the short and long-term, peace of mind can be hard to come by. Enter Eric Solender: a high school senior who is developing a game for faster diagnoses and treatments of concussive symptoms.
Solender himself suffered a severe concussion during basketball practice five years ago. It was an agonizing road to recovery that kept him out of school for almost five months. It was also the catalyst that would eventually inspire him to develop a concussion diagnostic tool using the Microsoft Kinect.
The currently untitled game tests reaction times and uses the Kinect’s biofeedback mechanism to assess balance and coordination, but also response to various audio and visual cues. An example would be calling out the name of the colored square (“blue”, “orange”) or responding to a prompt with the appropriate movement (e.g. “wave your left hand when the bar is blue”). Though seemingly simple, these tasks can prove extremely difficult for individuals suffering from concussions.
The key to a full recovery often lies in early treatment. Solender’s concussion test could easily be implemented in the home and on the sidelines of a game to detect symptoms in real time, but also to provide a baseline for the recovery process. Although it is not a substitute for proper medical care or an official diagnosis, the game could be a more accurate and faster way to catch physical and cognitive impairments than merely “monitoring” for symptoms.
The next step for Solender, who is developing his test with the help of his doctors, is to go through the Food and Drug Administration so that his game could be approved as a clinical tool.
To watch Eric’s game in action, click here.