Combatting Concussions

By Jennifer Lee.

Rochester, N.Y. – From soldiers in the battlefield to young athletes in Rochester, a company based in Henrietta called BlackBox Biometrics, Inc. will launch its high-tech sensor monitoring concussions in sports this year.

Called Linx IAS, the concussion sensor sends head impact data directly to smart devices, like your phone or tablet, in real time.

The company has been testing the Linx IAS in youth and high school sports teams in the area, including Penfield High School Football and Canandaigua Youth Lacrosse.

The Varsity boxing team at Aquinas Institute has been using the sensor since 2014.

“You don’t see something like this every day,” said Michael Robertson, a member of the varsity boxing team. “It’s cool that I got to be the test dummy, and it works.”

In boxing, the head and face area is a prime target area a fighter will punch to score points.

Robertson said he has been knocked down a few times, but has never been knocked out in the ring or suffered a concussion from fighting.

“My number one job as coach or director of the boxing here at Aquinas is to keep the kids safe,” Head Coach Dominic Arioli said. “Not to teach them boxing; it’s to keep them safe.”

Athletes like Robertson wear the Linx IAS inside a band or cap on their head. It lights up green, yellow or red to show the level of impact, with red being most severe.

“You don’t even know it’s there,” said Robertson. “When you’re in the ring and you put it on, you can’t tell that it’s there.”

David Borkholder, Founder and Chief Technology Officer of BlackBox Biometrics, Inc., is proud of the device.

“It’s incredibly thin, it’s flexible and we have some really robust algorithms to ensure accuracy,” Borkholder said.

The technology was first developed for soldiers in Afghanistan in the company’s first sensor called Blast Gauge System.

Currently about 18,000 units are made and shipped to the Department of Defense on a monthly basis. The company can make up to 32,000 of the products a month.

Borkholder said in both products, head impact data is sent directly to smart devices and stored as part of an athlete or soldier’s history.

“There’s emerging evidence that repetitive sub concussive hits are causing changes in the brain,” Borkholder said. “Those are changes that for long term implications aren’t yet understood.”

Linx IAS will go on sale to the public this year; an exact date has not been announced.

The suggested retail price is $199, but the official price will be announced closer to the product’s launch in the market.

“It’s nice because now I know if I do get hit too hard, my coach knows to take me out of the ring,” said Robertson. “If I do get hit too hard, they’ll know to test me for a concussion.”

To learn more about BlackBox Biometrics, Inc. and the Blast Gauge System and Linx IAS products, click here.

Combatting Concussions |

BlackBox Biometrics, leader in impact-sensing technology, teams up with U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory

Linx Impact Assessment System to be piloted in military training


BlackBox Biometrics®, Inc., the industry leader in sensor technology to measure concussive forces, has been awarded a contract to provide the Linx Impact Assessment System (IAS) and support services for the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory (USAARL). Linx IAS will be evaluated for field readiness and potential inclusion in several training environments.

Born from combat-tested technology and originally developed for athletes, Linx IAS™ combines wearable technology with a mobile application to provide real-time data and analysis of potential impact-related head injuries. The wearable technology weighs about the same as a nickel, is the size of a stick of gum, and fits easily into a custom skull cap or headband, allowing it to be worn in almost any environment – sports or military – where impacts to the head can occur.

Under the contract, USAARL will trial impact sensors for feasibility of use in military training environments. Prevalent in both theater and training, traumatic brain injury (TBI) remains a significant problem for military personnel and has been coined the “Signature Wound” of today’s modern wars. BlackBox Biometrics was selected by USAARL to participate in this study based on their proven expertise in measuring the unseen impact of concussive forces.

With a pedigree of developing blast-force sensors used in military and law enforcement settings, BlackBox Biometrics is no stranger to addressing the TBI epidemic and helping to preserve the neurocognitive health of soldiers. The company’s Blast Gauge® System records a Servicemember’s exposure to blast overpressure and acceleration forces capturing critical data to aid the triage and treatment of blast-related injuries such as TBI. This technology is currently in use by the U.S. Military, law enforcement tactical officers, as well as international military and research organizations, and BlackBox Biometrics is in the midst of delivering on a $9.4 million purchase order to support the U.S. Army’s transition to the newest version of the Blast Gauge System.

Along with ongoing field demonstrations of Linx IAS, this USAARL contract will further validate the value of the technology and support commercialization to the general public in 2016.

BlackBox Biometrics, leader in impact-sensing technology, teams up with U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory |

How battlefield technology is being used to track concussion on the sports field

In April this year, a US federal judge gave the final approval to a $900m class-action lawsuit settlement between the National Football League and thousands of former players.

More than 5,000 retired players represented by the case complained that the league hid the risks of multiple concussions in order to keep players on the pitch. Each will now be awarded up to $5m (£3.23m) for any serious medical conditions associated with repeated head trauma.

The high-profile dispute highlighted the long-term risk of concussion and sent a seismic panic over liability to colleges, high schools and club teams playing contact sports.

One company that stands to benefit from the heightened concern over concussion is BlackBox Biometrics, which makes a small wireless sensor that pairs with an app to detect blows during training and gameplay.

The technology – called Linx IAS – originated as a military tool to measure the invisible impact of shockwaves from an explosive blast which can rattle soldiers’ brains inside their skulls. The sensor gives medical staff an indication of the potential severity of the impact on an individual, which in turn helps the triage process.

“We saw a significant amount of attention being given to concussions in sports – driven by the NFL – and thought we could address the problem in the way we do for the military,” explains David Borkholder, chief executive officer and founder of BlackBox Biometrics.

High-school athletes in the US suffer as many as 300,000 concussions per year playing football, lacrosse, hockey and boxing. These traumatic brain injuries can cause headaches as well as problems with concentration, memory and coordination.

The Linx IAS sensor fits against the skull on a fabric headband, measuring concussive forces. These are transmitted wirelessly to an app which marks each blow on a scale of 1-99, along with an associated traffic light colour code. A green light signals a low-level “sub-concussive” blow, while red flags a severe hit. The app keeps track of these hits over time, so a coach can better monitor the wellbeing of his or her team.

“You can compare how often one player is hit compared to others in his position, and use that information to change behaviours,” explains Borkholder. “Maybe you’ll let him rest rather than playing or doing some other type of drill to maintain that athlete at peak performance.”

Around 400 devices are currently being trialled around the US, mostly in high schools.

BlackBox Biometric is focusing on younger athletes because they don’t tend to have the same level of medical support as professional organisations and, as Borkholder says, “they are more susceptible to brain injury”.

Alan Shahtaji, a doctor from UC San Diego Health who specialises in sports medicine and concussion, echoes Borkholder’s words.

“The majority of adults recover within a week, but for kids it’s closer to three or four weeks. We don’t fully understand why but their brains are developing and so there is a different healing process,” he says.

He believes that there needs to be more support and education about concussion at the youth level of sport, pointing out that if an NFL player is suspected of having concussion he has to undergo rigorous testing before being allowed back on the field. “But the people most vulnerable and who we should be being most cautious with don’t have these resources and aren’t getting the evaluations.”

Systems like Linx IAS could be useful as one tool for monitoring safety, he says, but shouldn’t be relied upon solely. And certainly not for diagnosis as there are too many variables at play. Borkholder agrees: “Our system is an impact sensor. An impact that causes concussion for one person may not in another.”

Shahtaji does, however, see value in using such a system to help hone athletes’ form. He explains: “If a kid is taking a lot of hits, maybe the coach needs to see if they’re having proper form, whether they are tackling or playing in the right way.”

Dom Arioli has been testing the system in his boxing gym in Rochester, New York. He runs one of the only high-school boxing programmes in the US, and has used Linx IAS “extensively” during practices in the last year involving children aged 13 to 18.

“No device is going to replace my eyes, but this helps keep track of the accumulation of blows – that’s where the real damage can be done. I can see whether a kid is taking too many punches in sparring and either send them to get checked out by a doctor or get them working on their defence,” he explains.

Arioli says he invites the children’s parents and grandparents to sparring sessions to show the technology in use. “More parents will feel better about letting their kids box because I’m taking these precautions,” he says.

The school considers the trials to be so successful that it plans to expand the use of the system to its American football, football, lacrosse and hockey teams.

The data collected from all of the trials will be used to tweak the user interface of the mobile app before the product launches commercially in early 2016.

How battlefield technology is being used to track concussion on the sports field |

BlackBox Biometrics Blasts Off With Monitoring Sensors

By: Maureen Newman, UVC Biomedical Engineering Community Connector.

David Borkholder, PhD, CTO and Founder of BlackBox Biometrics®, Inc., does not follow the status quo. When he applied for a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) grant in 2009 to study traumatic brain injury (TBI) at Rochester Institute of Technology, Dr. Borkholder placed his focus on measuring blast overpressure following an explosion, rather than acceleration.

“At the time, the Army had been working to measure forces associated with blast TBI using acceleration as their main focus,” explained Dr. Borkholder. “Studies concerning the mechanisms of TBI indicate blast overpressure is an important element. There is a rapid change in pressure–a shockfront–that alone can cause TBI.”

With the grant, Dr. Borkholder was able to go from concept to 1,000 physical units deployed in Afghanistan in under a year. “We were testing after only three months of receiving the award,” recalled Dr. Borkholder. “We were continually modifying what we were trying to do in terms of data capture and design. DARPA partnered with us throughout process. Once we had units, Special Operations Units in training exercises gave us incredibly useful feedback regarding the algorithm and the interface.
The end product, BlackBox Biometrics’ Blast Gauge® System, is the first soldier borne system of sensors to measure true blast overpressure. Three sensors are placed on a soldier’s helmet, shoulder, and chest, giving an overall measurement of the overpressure experienced in a blast. “Special Operations Units use the system extensively,” said Dr. Borkholder. Although BlackBox Biometrics’ strongest connections are in the United States military, there is also a significant customer base in Australia, where all of their soldiers in Afghanistan were deployed with the Blast Gauge System, and a growing base in Canada. “Technology adoption in the military is deliberate and slow,” stated Dr. Borkholder. “It usually takes several years of testing, then the military slowly starts to adopt the technology.”

With a strong market hold in the military, Dr. Borkholder says, “We have also expanded into law enforcement, including SWAT teams.” BlackBox Biometrics is also expanding into the sports market with the Linx Impact Assessment System (IAS) designed to monitor head impacts during sports. “Really understanding how impacts correlate to concussion and injury, especially for sub-concussive impacts that accumulate over time, is key,” said Dr. Borkholder. “No one really knows the implications of changes in the brain following an impact, and we need sensing technologies to unravel that.” With two strong product lines related to TBI, BlackBox Biometrics is well suited to meet this need.

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