The more we learn about our brains, the more we discover just how fragile they are. Nearly 250,000 Americans under the age of 20 were diagnosed with sports and recreation-related concussions in 2009, according to the CDC, which also notes that concussion rates rose by 57 percent from 2001 to 2009 in that age group.
That rise is partially attributable to improved reporting and concussion awareness among parents and coaches. But even with so much attention given to concussions these days, guidelines for assessment and management aren't always followed.
As a National Institute of Health study found, "even with new resources, proper identification of concussion remains a problem. Many of these concussions could be prevented outright with proper medical care and safety precautions, such as implementation of safer rules, proper conditioning, and standardized coaching techniques."
Additionally, when concussions happen, it's extremely important to manage an athlete's recovery to prevent him or her from getting further damage. That's where Sway Balance comes in. An athlete's balance is one of the most obvious things affected by a concussion, but using balance as a recovery metric requires objective data typically gleaned from highly expensive force platforms.
Sway Balance instead uses an iPhone's accelerometer to track an athlete's balancing ability against a known baseline. It's a smart app, and one that already counts a number of universities as partners, who are all interested in developing cheap, easy-to-deploy tools to ensure their athletes' safety.
And it's not just colleges that are interested: the same NIH study quoted above notes that "college athletes tend to have greater access to and more interaction with medical professionals," which means an app like Sway Balance could have even greater impact for high schools and youth sports programs, where data-driven concussion management is currently a rare sight.