It is a potentially life-saving question that has become more common with contact sports: When is it okay for an athlete to return to action after a concussion?
Concussions are usually caused by a blow to the head, but violently shaking the head or even the upper body can also cause them as well, even without you even recognizing it.
If you have ever had a concussion you are probably familiar with the nausea and headaches that come with it.
Now, a device called the Wobble, created by several Georgia Tech students, could help those recovering from a concussion even after those initial symptoms fade.
Coaches and trainers often rely on athlete feedback when determining if a player is ready to get back to the sport they love, but that information can be clouded by a desire to compete.
"Knowing when they're completely recovered to go back onto the field is a challenge and it's really important because the brain in a very vulnerable state after a concussion and so if they were to suffer another big hit it could be catastrophic." said student inventor Garrett Wallace.
Wallace along with other current students and graduates Hailey Brown, Matthew Devlin, Ana Gomez del Campo worked on the device.
They hope the Wobble will help athletes track recovery from a concussion with a portable machine, giving teams greater access to the technology.
"We have all these really amazing tools in a research hospital, but none of these things are actually feasible to implement in a clinic," said Gomez del Campo.
An athlete would stand on the Wobble's moveable platform for a balance test at the start of an athletic season. That data would be stored to compare his or her balance in the days following a concussion, tracking how and when they returned to their original number.
The students were selected as a finalist in the 2016 InVenture Prize at Georgia Tech, coming in second place. That won them a free patent filing for the device that is almost completed.
Donna Hays, head athletic trainer at Westminster Schools, says a device like the Wobble would help get students back to the classroom as well as the practice field with greater certainty.
"We depend on the athlete and the student to be forthcoming with their symptoms, and just having objective type information helps us make those decisions...because at the end it's the safety of that child going back to an activity to make sure it's time, it's okay for them to return," said Hays.
How quickly the Wobble could be released to the public depends on a key decision the team still has to make. If the device is only used as a measurement tool that date could come sooner, but if it gives recommendations to a user, the Wobble team would then have to get FDA approval, which could take a few more years.
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