Cape Town-based product development and engineering consulting house, BMEC, has developed an innovative health tech device that can predict concussions.

BMEC was founded in 2014 by three Biomedical Engineers – Raphael Smith, Shuaib Omar and Heidi Wilson – while working together at bio-medical engineering company CapeRay Medical, a spin-off company from the University of Cape Town (UCT).

“Although the time spent at CapeRay was extremely valuable, we wanted to expand our interests and keep growing and expanding our field of expertise. We started BMEC so that we could take on more projects, ones that we could choose ourselves. We were especially interested in assisting technological advances in the health sector,” said Smith.

Other than designing industrial, mechanical, electronic and software design solutions for their clients, BMEC has also developed their own product called g-tag, a head impact sensor used for predicting concussions in rugby.

“Although concussions are rarely fatal, Second Impact Syndrome (SIS) can be. This occurs when a player returns to the field without allowing the previous concussion to heal leading to exacerbated concussion symptoms and even impaired cognitive development in younger players,” said Smith.

“This, and the fact that recent research suggests a correlation between degenerative brain disease and multiple concussions, has heavily motivated the industry’s interest in confident concussion prediction,” continued Smith.

g-tag monitors linear acceleration as well as angular velocity in order to predict a concussion. It does so by referencing thresholds of linear acceleration and angular velocity, which are likely to result in concussion, based on a study published by the NFL.

g-tag is worn on the head and can be attached to the lacing of a scrum cap or held in place with strapping. g-tag is programmed to trigger either a ‘serious’ or ‘severe’ LED pulse alarm when the relevant impact thresholds are exceeded.

According to Smith, it took eight weeks to develop the first prototype of g-tag, and since then preliminary implementation testing has commenced. However, further funding is still needed to progress to the next stage of development.

“There is still a large proportion of testing which needs to be funded and take place before releasing the device commercially due to strict regulations pertaining to items being allowed on the field. Preferably we’d like the investment to come from a research body who has the capacity to conduct the necessary research and who would benefit academically from the data gathered,” concluded Smith.

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