When Braeden Benedict was an eighth-grade football player, he watched a teammate get hit pretty hard on the field. The friend was shaken up, but he got up and back into the game. Later in the week, he developed headaches — and that’s when he was diagnosed as having suffered a concussion.
He should not have kept playing after getting hit. Subsequent impacts after even minor head trauma can cause serious brain injuries that lead to dementia, memory loss, personality disorders, and other issues later in life. So letting the brain recover after a shock is extremely important. Don’t “just play through it.”
Braeden started thinking about how to create a simple, low-cost sensor that alerts people when game impacts might cause concussions. High-tech electronic sensors for helmets do exist, but they’re too costly for most schools and after-school leagues.
And that’s a real issue. In 2009, almost a quarter million kids 19 and under showed up at emergency rooms with concussion-related injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And that’s just the kids who showed up.
So in 2012, at age 15, Braeden adapted a shipping industry tool that measures how hard boxes are dropped, in case the contents get damaged. Braeden’s device is a thin, liquid-filled patch that attaches to the front of a helmet. When a player gets hit hard enough, the sensor measures the severity of the impact. It’s great for football, and also for hockey and lacrosse players.
Both his parents are engineers, so Braeden grew up making things. Once he’d figured out this device, he made a short video to explain the concept and entered it in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. He won a $25,000 grant to develop it, and then a 3M engineer got in touch. They developed a prototype, and now it’s been patented!