Google Glass a solution for NFL concussions?


In 2011, Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy was hit so hard by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison in a helmet-to-helmet impact that he was laid out flat on the field. A couple plays later, he was back on the field.

After the game, McCoy received the diagnosis everyone who saw the hit had already pronounced: He had a concussion.

That incident led the NFL to institute a program using “spotters” in the press box to watch players for signs of concussion and other injuries.

At every level of football, from high school to college to the NFL, many concussions go undiagnosed.

At the high school level, “most players don’t report symptoms,” Stanford University pediatric-sports doctor Christine Boyd told the Mercury News in August.

For high school football teams without trainers or medics on the sidelines, the majority of concussions go undetected, Boyd said.

In college football, players reported suffering six suspected concussions for every one that was actually diagnosed, CBS Sports reported in 2014.

But concussions could be diagnosed on the spot, right after an impact, by a variant of Google Glass “smart” spectacles, according to a new patent application from Google.

The infamous Google Glass flopped spectacularly in the consumer market, largely because it allowed surreptitious recording of videos.

Now, Google has envisioned a set of eyeglasses that could be worn under a football helmet to diagnose concussions and other brain injuries, along with trauma to other body parts.

“The system may connect to or be affixed within a head-mounted helmet structure,” the patent application said.

Acceleration of a person’s head during an impact can be used to predict the risk of head injury, according to Virginia Tech researchers.

Google’s glasses could measure acceleration of the head during an on-field collision — for example the speed at which Colt McCoy’s noggin went backward when it was hit by the 242-pound Harrison. Once the head passes a certain acceleration threshold, injuries to the brain can be presumed, the application suggested.

“The wearable computing device may identify an indication of a closed-head injury, such as a concussion,” said the application, filed in September and made public Jan. 5. “Since the user may wear the wearable computing device on the user’s head, the wearable computing device may experience about the same acceleration experienced by the user’s head.

“The threshold value may be a value of an acceleration above which the user of the wearable computing device may sustain a concussion.”

If such an injury is identified, the glasses could administer concussion-testing, which might include evaluating eye, verbal and motor-skills responses, according to the application.

“The wearable computing device may provide the verbal cue to the user via the speaker,” the application said. “The verbal cue may include a pre-recorded or synthesized message requesting the user to open the user’s eye, such as: ‘You may have suffered a closed-head injury. Please open your eyes and look to the left.’ ”

The threshold could be set according to the user’s status as an adult, adolescent or child, the application said.

Google’s device could also diagnose other injuries, by processing photos taken by an on-board camera, the patent said.

“The wearable computing device may employ an object recognition technique to identify an indication of an injury … (it) may be configured to identify an indication of a broken bone, such as an indication of a contusion on the user’s skin or an indication of swelling of tissue.”

The glasses could even call 911 if the injury is bad enough, the application indicated.

It’s not clear from the patent application how the technology would work in the event of a sudden deceleration to a full stop, as when a player’s head is slammed onto the AstroTurf.

While the future of football at every level may hinge to a large part on how the concussion problem is dealt with, there’s no guarantee Google will be involved in the solution, as a patent application does not necessarily mean an actual product will be developed.

However, the patent application also envisioned the technology applied to car crashes, another significant cause of concussions and other head injuries.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Business

Peach problem: Georgia fruits clobbered again
Peach problem: Georgia fruits clobbered again

Uncooperative weather has taken a jumbo bite out of the Peach State’s peach crop , a second year of pain for growers of the iconic fruit. And similar hardship appears to have eliminated half Georgia’s more lucrative blueberry yield. The difficult years have left Atlanta shoppers in the produce aisle facing the prospect of paying...
Atlanta home prices hit record high on scarcity of homes listed
Atlanta home prices hit record high on scarcity of homes listed

The metro Atlanta housing market broke records in opposite direction last month, hitting a high in the price of homes that were sold and a low in the supply of homes listed for sale. The median price of a home in the region has now edged above a quarter-million dollars for the first time, reaching $251,250, according to a report from Re/Max of...
Equifax wants judge to reject suits by banks
Equifax wants judge to reject suits by banks

Equifax has asked a federal judge to reject the claims from 46 banks and credit unions for payment of damages because of last year’s massive data breach at the Atlanta-based company. The companies, which are based in 29 states, sued Equifax and claimed that Equifax owes them for all the costs they incurred after the data breach was...
Georgia jobless rate at 17-year low; trade war a worry
Georgia jobless rate at 17-year low; trade war a worry

Georgia’s economy had a strong June, adding 14,200 jobs while the unemployment rate slipped to its lowest level in 17 years. In a sign of strong hiring, the jobless rate is slipped from 4.2 percent in May to 4.1 percent while adding more than 10,000 people to the labor force, according to Georgia Department of Labor. Since June of last...
Delta relaunches Atlanta-Shanghai route, key link to China
Delta relaunches Atlanta-Shanghai route, key link to China

Delta Air Lines is reconnecting a key link between the Southeast and China with the resumption of flights from Atlanta to Shanghai this week. It’s the culmination of a years-long effort to bring the service back, after years with no nonstop flights between the world’s busiest airport and China. Delta CEO Ed Bastian said Shanghai...
More Stories