August 19, 2017

Novelties: A Wearable Alert to Head Injuries in Sports

Head injuries can come from a single jarring impact during a game, or from a series of smaller jolts. But in the midst of play, many blows aren’t necessarily easy to spot by coaches, physicians or parents in attendance.

A crop of new lightweight devices that athletes can wear on the field may help people on sidelines keep better track of hits to players’ heads during games and practice sessions. The devices, packed with sensors and microprocessors, register a blow to a player’s skull and immediately signal the news by blinking brightly, or by sending a wireless alert.

Athletes can wear the devices pressed tightly to their heads, held in place by a headband within a beanie, for example, or even by an adhesive patch and Velcro.

Many of the systems are in research and development, but a few products are coming to the market this summer, including the CheckLight, a washable beanie created jointly by MC10 and Reebok. The beanie has an electronics module tucked inside it; a blow to the head sets off an LED readout on the outside. It starts blinking in yellow if the impact is moderate, or red if it is severe.

The CheckLight can be worn under a helmet for football or hockey, or by itself for soccer and other helmet-free sports. An MC10 spokeswoman said it would be available later this month at the Reebok Web site ($150).

Another sensor, the X-Patch from X2 Biosystems in Seattle, attached directly to a player’s head, sends data about hits wirelessly to the sidelines. The product will be out this fall, said Christoph Mack, X2’s C.E.O., who did not disclose the price.

Dr. Robert C. Cantu, a neurosurgery professor at the Boston University School of Medicine and medical director of the Sports Legacy Institute, which is seeking to prevent brain trauma in athletes, says he has looked into many of the new sensors as they have been developed. He’s in favor of them.

“They give you a rough estimate of total number of hits to the head the person has taken,” information of great importance to coaches, parents and athletes themselves, he said. “You don’t want to get a high number of hits,” he said, “because there is no hit that is good for your head.”

But the new devices shouldn’t be used to diagnose concussions, Dr. Cantu warned. “There’s no magic number you can read on a device that means you have a concussion,” he said. “Many more factors besides forces are involved.” Concussions can occur under a wide range of conditions, and no clear impact threshold has been established.

Stefan Duma, head of the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, welcomed the new generation of sensors, particularly if they can be worn by women and by young players — both understudied populations in the world of contact sports and brain injury. “They may help us understand more about the risks that come with head impacts,” he said.

But he also had reservations about the devices, which he said could introduce a range of tricky problems. If a youth team on the field suddenly has several blinking lights, who will tend to the various players? What qualifications will the sidelines staff need?

Another issue could arise if opposing athletes see strategic possibilities in setting off the signals. “Players might target people and get their lights blinking to get them removed from the game,” he said.

The CheckLight was developed by Reebok, which makes the beanie, and MC10, a start-up in Cambridge, Mass., that is developing a line of flexible and stretchable electronics. Sensors in the cap — a tiny accelerometer and gyroscope — measure the head’s forward and twisting movements, said Steven Fastert, director of product development at MC10. An algorithm evaluates the impact, deciding if the hit is negligible, moderate or severe.

The sensor can be used for about 13 hours continuously and can be recharged with a USB cable. The total number of hits can be read when the battery is recharged.

In research projects, scientists have long used special football helmets with instruments embedded inside them to measure head impacts. Dr. Dumas of Virginia Tech, for example, has used such helmets in his research for 11 years with its football players.

“I’m glad to see more systems and technologies coming to expand measurement outside the helmet,” he said.

E-mail: novelties@nytimes.com.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/16/business/a-wearable-alert-to-head-injuries-in-sports.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Political Economy: The Quest for a More Perfect Union

When Mario Draghi was appointed president of the European Central Bank, the German tabloid Bild gave him a Prussian helmet because it admired his Teutonic anti-inflation credentials. The Sun, Bild’s British equivalent, should give him keys to the City of London because of his pro-market credentials.

Mr. Draghi likes London. The Italian still has an apartment in the city, kept from his time as a Goldman Sachs banker. He is a man with a natural affinity for the markets.

Last week Mr. Draghi was in London, the scene of his July 2012 promise to “do whatever it takes to preserve the euro.” His message this time was that Europe needs a more European Britain as much as Britain needs a more British Europe.

He was careful not to wade directly into the British political swamp and say, for example, that Britain would be crazy to quit the European Union. He confined himself to listing the ways in which Britain’s economy, and the City in particular, are entwined with the euro zone. But it seems clear that he would prefer Britain to get stuck into Europe than stay on the sidelines — where it has been since Britain decided not to join the euro — let alone quit entirely.

Mr. Draghi didn’t say what he meant by a more British Europe. But it is interesting to speculate what the euro zone would be like if Britain had decided to join the single currency. For a start, the zone’s monetary policy would probably have been less German-dominated — and, hence, less obsessed with fighting inflation to the exclusion of other economic objectives.

The E.C.B. has, of course, still managed to innovate — in particular, with a bond-buying plan that has taken some of the sting out of the crisis. But it always has to watch its back, given criticism from Germany’s central bank and challenges in that country’s constitutional court.

A more British Europe might also now find it easier to adopt a sensible “macroprudential” policy for managing the flow of credit around the financial system. One of the zone’s little-noticed potential design flaws is a Germanic insistence on Chinese Walls between bank supervision and the conduct of monetary policy, even though both will come under the E.C.B.’s aegis.

While such separation makes sense insofar as the supervision of individual banks is concerned, it could be problematic for macroprudential supervision. Take the current situation. With inflation low, the E.C.B. should be pushing interest rates into negative territory or buying government bonds. The snag is that, while such a monetary policy would be right for the euro zone on average, it would be too loose for Germany.

The sensible approach would be to counterbalance such one-size-fits-all monetary policy with tight credit policy focused on Germany, implemented via extra-high bank capital requirements there. Maybe the E.C.B. will eventually get around to such a rational policy mix. But it would be easier if it could operate like the Bank of England, which doesn’t have Chinese Walls.

The zone’s banking system would also, arguably, be in a better shape if it was more British. This is not to deny Britain’s massive banking crisis. The point, rather, is that Britain has done a fairly good job of cleaning up the mess, while the zone has tended to sweep problems under the carpet — which has debilitated parts of the European economy.

The E.C.B. does have a chance to remedy this error. It has already insisted on a rigorous review of bank loan books and a stress test of their solvency before it takes responsibility for supervising them next year. It now needs to get governments to agree to wind down or recapitalize any banks that fail the test.

Another area where a more British Europe might have been beneficial would have been in shooting down the planned Financial Transactions Tax — which will gum up the markets, in the process disrupting the E.C.B.’s monetary policy. Maybe the tax will prove stillborn, anyway, given the lukewarm support from Germany. But this is not guaranteed.

The same goes for the management of the Cyprus crisis, where the somewhat anti-market European Commission insisted on imposing capital controls against the E.C.B.’s advice. Again, it may not be too late to mitigate the damage. The controls could, and should, be lifted when the resolution of the country’s two big banks is finished. But it would have been better not to have imposed them in the first place.

To some extent, such speculations are academic. Britain hasn’t joined the euro and won’t for a long time, if ever. But there are still two main ways in which a more engaged Britain could advance not only its economic interests in Europe, but Europe’s too.

First, the push by the British prime minister, David Cameron, for more competitive markets — principally by extending the single market to services and by signing free-trade agreements with the United States and Japan — could play a role in solving the euro crisis.

Second, Britain could campaign for an enhanced role for London’s capital markets in Europe. The European Union’s “bankcentricity” — under which finance is mostly routed through a semibroken banking system rather than the markets — will be a drag on growth.

Mr. Cameron and Mr. Draghi should make common cause on such an agenda. That’s a practical way to make Britain more European and Europe more British.

Hugo Dixon is editor at large of Reuters News.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/27/business/global/27iht-dixon27.html?partner=rss&emc=rss