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NFHS duo develop concussion sensor system

Triggered by brain injury player suffered in 2010

POSTED: April 8, 2013 12:28 a.m.
 

A traumatic brain injury in an August 2010 practice sidelined then North Forsyth High School senior Joshua Haddock from his dream of playing football in college.

While Haddock has since overcome many odds and obstacles in his recovery, he’s never lost sight of his passion for football.

What began with his own interest in returning to the gridiron has since evolved into a sensor system that will afford other young athletes the opportunity he didn’t have.

Haddock, who now works as a personal trainer, and one of his former coaches at North, Mike Massey, have developed the Halo-One, a sensor system that will measure the gravitational force from a blow to the head.

While the Halo-One won’t help Haddock get back on the field, it could prevent someone else from suffering his type of injury.

“My injury was sustained from a secondary impact,” he said. “Had I been wearing the Halo-One we designed, I could have completely avoided the injury altogether.

“Knowing I had a concussion, [a light] would have gone off. If we could just save one kid and one family from going through what I had to go through, I think it would be worth it.”

Massey hopes the sensor can be in production before next football season starts.

“Our dream is coming true,” he said. “We are very close to production.”

Haddock and Massey, who continues to work as a lay coach at North, began their efforts by working on an advanced helmet that would create distance between a player’s head and the helmet itself.

“[But] we found out that would be more difficult than we originally imagined due to weight restrictions on our helmets,” Haddock said.

Undaunted, the men reached out to friends and family members who worked in engineering, software programming, neurology and even rocket science. They landed on the Halo-One.

“It’s been a collaboration of a lot of different people to achieve this, but it’s been a labor of love,” Massey said.

“We would love to make money, but our biggest thing is we know that 1,000 young people are going to be out there doing something they enjoy, playing a sport, and they’re going to die from their injuries ... those numbers are unacceptable to us.”

The Halo-One is the main product in development at Pro-Tech Armor LLC, a company Massey formed. The sensor will be integrated into helmets — headbands for female athletes — and skull caps.

If a player has been hit in the head hard enough to potentially result in a concussion, a row of LED lights would illuminate, signaling that he or she should receive immediate medical attention.

Massey noted that often when a player has been hit in the head, he or she just keeps playing. But concussions can lead to developmental delays in children, as well as serious damage to the brain, as seen primarily in former National Football League players.

While the Halo-One wouldn’t prevent concussions, detection could lead to treatment, according to Massey.

“We’re not here to change the rules of any sport,” he said. “What we’re here to do is give instant information for real-time detection.”

With the hard and software finished, Massey noted that they’re “at a point where we’re just trying to miniaturize it. We want it to be so small it will fit smaller than a thumb nail.”

The sensor is also being designed for other sports, particularly girls’ soccer, which has a high rate of concussions. And Massey said he sees it eventually being used in bicycle helmets and for senior citizens, who often suffer concussions from falls.

Before that happens, however, Haddock said the company needs to work on design.

“From talking to people, one of the biggest things they pushed is [style] … the kids aren’t going to wear it if it doesn’t look cool.” he said.

“So we’re trying to implement it into a system for things that girls are already wearing and guys are already wearing. That way it’s not out of the norm for them, it’s just potentially going to save their lives because not everyone will be as blessed as I was to survive an injury like that.”

 

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