82Nobody has to tell you that concussions are a major problem for contact sports. In many cases, remedies such as having ATC spotters on the sidelines of NFL games have been put in place. The problem is, most concussions are nearly impossible to detect with the naked eye. With that in mind Australian company HitIQ designed a mouth guard — Nexus A9 — that detects head impacts and improves the process of concussion assessment.
Ten years of experience in professional sports gave Mike Vegar a good idea of the concussion problem in contact sports. “I saw first-hand how poorly [concussions] were managed and the need for more data and more science in this space to obviously help solve this problem and better manage it,” said Vegar, the Managing Director and co-founder of HitIQ.
Given that the other founder, Lucas Lang, is a dental hygienist, developing a mouth guard only made sense.
Connected to the skull through the upper jaw and integrated with motion sensors, the Nexus A9 detects both linear and rotational accelerations in head impacts. This info is communicated via Bluetooth to a sideline device in nearly real-time so medical personnel can make more informed decisions regarding concussion assessments.
“I think the value of our technology right now in its current standing is its ability to A, assist medical professionals in making better decisions and more informed decisions and B, basically being some eyes on the field and not letting these serious impacts go unnoticed or unrecognized,” Vegar said.
Currently in the research and development phase, the Nexus A9 is being tested in a scientific field-study at Melbourne’s La Trobe University. The Strathmore Football Club is involved in the study as well.
“We’ve got close to 40 athletes wearing the mouth guard every week,” Vegar said. “The feedback that we’re getting from both the data, the mouth guard and the athlete has been so invaluable and we’ve just made massive strides in the last four months with this trial.”
Feedback from athletes has been especially important. While the Nexus A9 isn’t your typically mouth guard, the aim is that it will feel that way to the user.
The hope is that the product will go to market, particularly in Australia, within the next 3-4 months.
“We don’t want to have a product that doesn’t have a scientific rigor behind it so that’s a key objective for us and we’re very close to achieving that,” Vegar said.
Research continues for HitIQ as they’ll now look into American football in the U.S. over the next two weeks. Once available, the Nexus A9 will have an undeniable amount of scientific backing.
Vegar made it clear that in designing this mouth guard his team is only looking for what’s best for one person — the athlete.