Firm’s high-tech gear battles concussions

By Brain Sharp

As the two boys sparred inside the Aquinas Institute gymnasium, Dave Robertson watched ringside, offering encouragement and coaching to his son: “Get out of the corner! Keep your hands up!”

His son, 15-year-old Mike Robertson, is a third-year boxer at Aquinas Institute, which claims to have the only in-house high school boxing program in the country.

This week, young Robertson and most of his teammates were fitted with high-tech headbands, equipped with sensors that help coaches, trainers and parents evaluate the blows students receive each time they step in the ring. The Linx IAS, a product of Rochester-based BlackBox Biometrics, is one of many such wearable technologies flooding the market.

The sophisticated technology is another tool for helping protect athletes and refine their training — highlighting, for example, which boxers take the most hits to the head, and thus need to work on keeping their hands up. But when it comes to integrating technology, sport and health science, gaps remain.

“We are still, as a scientific field, trying to establish a relationship between hits to the head and something bad to the brain,” said Dr. Jeffrey Bazarian, who has served as an adviser to BlackBox and is an emergency medicine professor with a concussion and research program at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

“It is tempting to think about this like cigarette smoking (increasing the risk of lung cancer). … But it’s not a one-to-one relationship. It gets complicated,” he said. “I don’t think anybody knows how this information is supposed to be used.”

Lightweight and about the size of a stick of gum, the Linx Impact Assessment System can be slipped into a custom headband or skullcap to be worn with almost any sport. Other companies are marketing clips, patches and helmet inserts.

The technology can help coaches coach better, and medical professionals assess an athlete’s condition. But Linx IAS and these other sensors are not medical devices and cannot prevent concussions.

Beyond tallying the number and magnitude of blows, the sensors record head movement to show where and how each hit is absorbed. Data is relayed in real time to a smartphone or tablet app. With the Linx, each blow is measured in degree of force from 1 to 100, color-coded (green is low impact, yellow is medium, and red is high), tabulated and tracked by individual across sports and over time. In addition to big hits, there is concern about the cumulative effect of repeated hits.


New Technology to Manage Potential Head Injuries

By Alex Crichton

It’s estimated that as many as 3.8-million Americans experience concussive events as a result of athletic or recreational activities each year.

Now, new technology from a Rochester company can alert people ahead of time and possibly prevent head injuries.

It’s called the Linx Impact Assessment System, developed by BlackBox Biometrics, a company that evolved from an incubator at RIT

Company founder David Borkholder says the wearable technology, helps evaluate potentially concussive forces on the playing field.

A sensor fits into a headband or skull cap, and through an app, allows parents, coaches and athletic trainers to monitor how hard and how many times an athlete is hit playing sports.

Borkholder says its designed to help make better choices for athletes, and it can also be used to fine-tune techniques to help reduce the level of impact during play.

He says it’s not measuring injury but the forces experienced by the athlete.

Borkholder says concussions can’t be prevented, but this new technology can alert people to the severity of impacts athletes are encountering on the playing field.

He says they’re hopeful this technology will make sports safer for athletes of all ages.

It’s expected the product will be launched by the end of March.

New Technology to Manage Potential Head Injuries |

Linx IAS featured on

By Ben Radding

The other device I saw that stuck out to me was the Linx IAS sports impact monitoring system from appropriately named BlackBox Biometrics. Relevant now more than ever with the controversy surrounding how the NFL deals with concussions, the Linx IAS is a device—not larger than a USB drive—that you put into a skullcap and, using a 3-axis accelerometer and 3-axis gyroscope, can detect how hard you collide with another player. The accompanying app gives info on a smartphone or tablet with a color-coding system—green means you’re fine, yellow is to check for a concussion, and red… well, who needs a working brain?

Originally used by the military for about five years to test for signs of concussion after, say, IED blasts or artillery training, they’ve slimmed down the device so it fits under a helmet—though a helmet’s not necessary. They had it on a test dummy named Bob, and no matter how hard I hit him, I couldn’t seem to give Bob a concussion. The nice folks at the booth assured me that he’s tougher than he looks.

For mass production, this will be for a mother who wants to track her son’s collisions during a middle school football match in real time, along with coaches. The big-picture use is if they can get enough football players or active members of the military wearing them, then they have a large sample of data to do studies on and draw conclusions from. Here’s hoping.

BlackBox Biometrics Linx IAS |

Linx IAS helps identify sports concussions

By C.C. Weiss

Concussions – or at least concussion discussions – are all the rage lately, particularly in relation to professional sports leagues like the NFL. BlackBox Biometrics is adding to the discussion with a small, lightweight sensor designed to track concussive forces. Derived from the company’s military blast force sensor, the consumer-grade Linx IAS straps to the head via a beanie or headband and measures impacts, providing an easy-read analysis that can help athletes identify concussions.

BlackBox debuted the Linx IAS at CES 2015, where it won Innovation Awards in the Fitness, Sports and Biotech; Tech for a Better World; and Wearable Technologies categories. The wearable, which weighs about the same as a nickel and looks like a thin, flat USB drive, uses an integrated three-axis accelerometer and three-axis gyroscope to measure forces on the head. By sliding it into the accompanying skull cap or headband, the athlete can wear it under a helmet or on its own, in warm or cold weather. BlackBox imagines it being used for team sports like football and hockey, as well as individual sports like snowboarding, bicycling and skateboarding.

The Linx IAS sends data wirelessly via Bluetooth Smart to the accompanying Android/iOS app, where the athlete or team manager can analyze it. It sends an alert immediately after a concussion-level impact occurs, so a coach, parent or trainer can check the athlete out right then and there – the app even includes a “cognitive and concussion symptoms test”. For the athlete, the unit has a color-coded LED alert system that allows him or her to check immediately to see if the hit was low impact (green), moderate (yellow) or severe (red).

The company is careful to stress the Linx IAS device and app do not actually diagnose a concussion – you’ll need physician for that. The IAS merely gives the athlete a better tool for analyzing risk and identifying when it’s time to get checked by the doc.

Up to 128 Linx units can be paired to a single mobile device, allowing a coach, team doctor, parent or other group leader to monitor multiple units from a single device. The app also pushes data to the cloud where it can be shared with multiple users and accessed via a Web app and a PC utility.

The Linx IAS is a lighter, consumer-ready design based on BlackBox’s military-spec Blast Gauge. The company started in 2011 with the goal of measuring the unseen blast forces that were leading to hundreds of thousands of traumatic brain injuries among US troops. The Blast Gauge uses a total of three sensor units – one on the helmet, one on the chest and one over the non-firing shoulder – to provide all-around blast tracking and analysis. BlackBox has supplied Blast Gauges to US and international military forces, as well as law enforcement agencies.

In moving its technology to the consumer sports market, BlackBox cites a 2013 Institute of Medicine report that found that up to 3.8 million people per year are affected by a sports- or recreation-related brain injury. It also notes a 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that found that the number of Americans younger than 19 treated for sports concussions increased from 150,000 to 250,000 a year between 2001 and 2009.

The waterproof Linx IAS will be available by the end of the first quarter of 2015, starting at US$200. It will come packaged with a cordless AC adapter and your choice of skull cap or headband. The integrated battery will provide up to 14 hours on a single charge and it will charge via the built-in USB, or an electrical outlet with the AC adapter.

BlackBox Biometrics Linx IAS |