Chemists develop first on-site indicator of traumatic brain injury

Chemists develop first on-site indicator of traumatic brain injury
Chemists develop first on-site indicator of traumatic brain injury

The detection of head trauma that could lead to permanent injuries like memory loss and dementia has become a growing concern in contact sports and for the military. There is no simple and immediate means of identifying people that have been exposed to enough force to produce an injury.

The polymer changes color as increasing amounts of force are applied to the polymer. The color change was inspired by how opals are created and the variation of colors that opals can have due to differences in force that create the opal. Silica was pressed into a light sensitive polymer. Deformation of the polymer allows the silica particles to occupy different position in the polymer and produce different colors. The color changes were tested at 30, 60, and 90 millinewtons of force that is within the range that athletes and military personnel are exposed to.

The polymer is light enough and inexpensive enough to be commercially viable. The idea is to place a strip of the polymer on football helmets and the helmets and body armor used by the military to immediately identify the amount of force a tackle or explosion has exposed an individual to. The scenario that produces the most damage to athletes and soldiers is returning to play or to the battlefield after exposure to a very strong blow to the head. The repetition of the blows causes the damage to increase.

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