In hockey, still today, too many players get back on the ice with undetected concussions. The fast pace of the game and the lack of visible signs make it difficult for medical staff to be aware of an increased risk of concussions for players. A concussion is a complex issue, not only from a diagnostic perspective but also due to the current research limitations - researchers are still working on unraveling the exact mechanisms behind the injury, the factors contributing to a quick recovery or prolonged symptoms, and the most effective interventions.
Working on several interdisciplinary research projects in sports during his PhD, Mathieu co-founded the EPFL spin-off Bearmind. The team at Bearmind developed a Head-Impact Monitoring System, consisting of a hardware piece for helmets gathering data, such as the force of a head impact received by a player, and a software piece to interpret and learn from the data. We selected Bearmind as a Product Camp (formerly "Masterclass") participant in the Fall 2022 batch.
“How can an application enable medical staff to understand the increased risks of concussions and facilitate quick decision-making?”
It was crucial to provide more than just the live data related to a specific head impact; staff on the sideline needed a tool that facilitates their current decision-making process. Hence, we started our UX research at the source by talking to ice hockey players, teams' staff, and doctors. Through numerous interviews, we quickly understood the black-and-white environment, in which decisions are often made with a shoulder tap, asking players whether "they are ok" after a head impact. Yet, players are often at risk of returning on the ice with increased chances of having a brain injury because "they are ok" - which could lead them never to be able to return on the ice (see Sport Dimanche - RTS coverage below).
Based on this research, our team has developed a dashboard that allows medical personnel to access all relevant data about an impact, such as force, location, head movement, or benchmarking data, with a simple touch. The key was to provide medical staff with additional information for the assessment and decision-making process. The dashboard, which will be used by several hockey clubs in the Swiss National League this season, also provides access to a player's concussion history, past impacts, and reported symptoms.
We also learned how important it is for players to get access to this data and better understand their health impact, leading us to conceptualize a Player App alongside the Bearmind team. As a follow-on to our Product Camp, we have decided to continue working with Bearmind by investing in their seed round, continuing the work on our concepts and designs, and developing the apps for medical staff and players, respectively. We forged a trusted partnership and are excited about the journey ahead, learning more about concussions through sensors, software, and specialists.