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In Pictures: Concussion sensors hit a bump on the playing field

How can Ottawa-based Impakt Protective overcome liability issues and make contact sports safer for kids?

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Danny Crossman, co-founder and CEO of Impakt Protective Inc., has developed wireless helmet sensors under the brand Shockbox. When attached to a sports helmet, the sensor sends an alert – via wireless transmission to a tablet or smartphone – telling a coach or parent when a player has suffered a hit to the head, and how hard.

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A Shockbox sensor is shown mounted to the inside of a helmet (the black item). The challenge for Impakt Protective is that the makers of sports helmets are warning consumers that adding the sensor may void the helmet’s warranty. The sensors, which weigh one ounce, have been tested, including in concussion research by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Mr. Crossman maintains adding the sensor has no effect on the performance of the helmet.

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Here are the sensors made by Impakt Protective Inc. Mr. Crossman suspects that the helmet makers are reacting to liability issues. “Sports like football are synonymous with litigation now because of concussions,” he says. “Helmets are worn in that litigious environment and helmet manufacturers want to protect their own liability exposure.”

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Scott Clark, the company’s president and vice-president of operations, works in Impakt Protective headquarters in Ottawa, Ont. Mr. Crossman says the reaction from athletic trainers and coaches – the company’s primary sales target, particularly at high schools and universities – has been positive. Their marketing strategy is to use education to counter what they call manufacturers’ scare tactics.

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Stewart Eady, an embedded systems designer, works at Impakt Protective.

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With several competitors vying for an estimated North American market worth $1.2-billion, Impakt Protective needs to increase its market share, but that’s challenging in the face of negativity from sports equipment manufacturers.

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