Putting their Heads Together, a Wilton Family Creates Concussion Monitor
They say a family that plays together, stays together. But what about a family that, together, creates a startup business designed to help other families be able to play in a healthier, safer way?
That’s just what the Hollingsworth family of Wilton has done. A little over two years ago they started a company called Triax to create and market an innovative product that they hope will revolutionize sports when it comes to concussion prevention.
The Hollingsworths–father Dale, and sons Chad and Hunter–developed a device with head impact sensors that monitor the G-force of hits to the head in both helmeted and non-helmeted sports. The product is very simple to wear and use, and syncs the information directly to a smartphone on the sidelines. There are two different versions of the head impact sensors, one tailored for a parent to monitor and one more suited for a team.
“The sensors go into a headband or a skull-cap and fit on the head. They monitor the head impact of an athlete in real time–how hard, where on the head the athlete is getting hit, how often. It stores all that data, for however long as a player is using the system. It empowers a parent to be able to drop their child at soccer practice and when they pick up their child, when they’re in range of the headband, upload anything that might have occurred at the practice,” Chad explains.
Simultaneously they developed an educational initiative called the “HeadsOn Campaign,” a program for athletes, parents and coaches, providing simple and actionable insights about concussions. “There’s no one educating people on how to be more aware, what to look for if something happens. We’ve tried to present it in an engaging way, so anyone from a young kid to a parent can get the information.”
While football is a sport that has gotten a lot of attention around the subject of concussions, it’s something that athletes in many other sports also need to protect against.
“Girls soccer is second to football in terms of concussion rates. Cheerleading is statistically more dangerous than football for catastrophic head injuries,” Chad says. “The NFL gets a lot of attention, it has a lot of footprint in our culture. I think now people are starting to realize it’s all sports we need to be careful about.”
That, he says, is one reason why they built the product to be adaptable for both helmeted and non-helmeted sports.
“Most kids play multiple sports, so for them be able to use a sensor for football in the fall, ice hockey in the winter, lacrosse in the spring–that was part of our thought process from the beginning. This is a lot bigger than football. This is something that every parent should be thinking about.”
There are 15 university athletic departments that are using the sensors, and Chad says that several concussion researchers are using the sensors in their own data collection research. “There are high schools using it and we’ve just signed up a private middle school out of Greenwich too.” One of the team-based applications is that the sensors allow coaches to see which of their players are playing safely, and which aren’t.
“Now they have data to say, ‘the way you’re doing this isn’t safe, let’s work on this.’ It’s great for reinforcing behavior change. If people learn how to play the game smarter and safer at a younger level, they’ll play that way for the rest of their lives. And the kids even love working with the data–they think this is pretty cool.”
The parent version of the sensors are commercially available on the Triax website and on Amazon. They’re also in discussions with several larger retailers that will soon start to carry the product, which retails for $199.
Largely because of the high number of concussions in girls’ soccer, Triax has made soccer their number-one focus. “There are three times as many girls who play soccer in this country as guys who play football. We think there’s a need to bring an awareness and this technology.”
As part of that, the company has forged a partnership with professional soccer player Abby Wambach, who will be wearing the SIM-P during her training leading up to the Women’s World Cup next summer and speaking on the issue of concussion education.
“She scores most of her goals with her head. About a year and a half ago, she had a concussion in a televised international game. She was clearly concussed–and didn’t leave the game. She played the rest of the game, another 10 minutes, and was clearly injured. The media really jumped on her. When we first met with her, she really saw this as a cause because she said, ‘I set such a bad example for all these young girls who watch me play, I need to start setting a positive example, that we can play the game at a high level but we can do things to be safer.’ She wanted to be part of the team and help get the word out,” Chad explains.
Personally, it’s important to the entire Hollingsworth family, with five boys–all of whom grew up here in Wilton and played sports–they were no strangers to concussions themselves.
“We were all competitive with each other,” Chad laughs. “We played soccer and hockey, a lot of contact sports. Back then it was, ‘shake it off, you just got your bell rung.'” As a result, they all feel a personal commitment to what they’re doing.
“If we can prevent one kid from having a debilitating injury, then we’re doing something right. Doing something to promote safety is better than going out there to sell some widget.”
They’ve also enjoyed working on the goal as a family.
“It’s fun to be building something as a family that, it’s still in its early stages but it has a good opportunity to add a good value for a lot of people. Family dinners have turned into brainstorming sessions. It’s really consumed us as a family, and something we’ve all become really passionate about. It’s fun,” Chad adds.
They’re also leveraging other Wilton contacts–some friends from town have beta-tested the devices and there are other Wilton friends who are working with them.
“The idea really started around a Wilton kitchen table, has been tested and developed in Wilton, it really is a Wilton story, and cool to think about it that way,” Chad says.