UA developing virtual reality concussion awareness app for athletes

University of Arizona engineering and biomedical researchers are working on a virtual reality experience aimed to increase concussion education and awareness with NCAA football players and other student-athletes.
“Our hypothesis for this study is that if student athletes experience the side effects of concussion, which there are 22 side effects, they will be more likely to report when they do get a concussion,” Ricardo Valerdi, principal investigator for the project, said. “The way for us to do it is with virtual reality.”
These side effects range from loss of balance, headaches, blurred vision and dizziness, which could seem normal in the heat of a game. Valerdi wants the virtual reality simulation to give players more confidence in recognizing the symptoms and make the right decisions.
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The team is using Google Cardboard, an open-source virtual reality platform, to help replicate scenarios for athletes in which they would have received a concussion and simulate concussion symptoms like double vision or dizziness in a virtual setting.
The team was given $100,00 in funding from the NCAA as part of the NCAA Mind Matters Challenge, a joint initiative with the U.S. Department of Defense to educate student athletes and soldiers on concussions.
“We are using that money to develop the app and do all the research and validation,” Valerdi said.
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“We are using U of A football players to work on and develop the app,” Valerdi said. “They are doing the storyboarding, like laying out the experience. That’s important because they are our end users.”
The initial prototype is set to release in December. The app will be free and compatible with any smartphone.
“If we’re successful you’ll probably see an increase in the number of concussions being reported,” Valerdi said. “We hope that it completely changes the game in terms of concussion education.”
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Photos courtesy of Ricardo Valerdi