Unlike most of us, Patrick Carney, a Philadelphia native and Eagles fan, hopes to have something to celebrate on Saturday and Sunday this weekend.
Carney is the CEO of Philly-based EyeGuide, one of nine technology companies competing in the NFL 1st and Future competition on Saturday, for the chance to win $50,000 and two Super Bowl LII tickets in Minneapolis. EyeGuide created Focus, a new way to detect concussions using a portable device on the sidelines—an issue the NFL has been increasingly contending with the last couple of years.
“The concussion issue is white hot,” Carney says. “EyeGuide provides quick, affordable, objective and accurate testing for brain injury so an athlete can be diagnosed properly and recover quickly. But it’s not just for professionals, it’s for youth sports or anyone who may need to be tested for brain injury.”
EyeGuide’s founder, Brian Still, recognized inefficiencies in the archaic system of sideline concussion testing, which still relies on asking questions and testing reactions. But with one in six concussions being improperly diagnosed, that method obviously is not enough. Although there is other testing technology, none can be used immediately after a concussion, right on the field, like Focus.
Directly after an accident, athletes rest their chin on a short pedestal—like at the eye doctor— facing an iPad. In just 10 seconds, Focus follows the eye, collecting 1,200 data points on eye movement. Eyes move differently with a healthy brain and an injured brain, so the test can give a diagnosis right away.
Concussions are common in football, of course, but also in soccer, and other team sports where children, in particular, run the risk of running into each other. And many athletes, by the time they’re professional, have suffered multiple concussions. That can lead to devastating consequences, including permanent brain damage like chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which has been linked to suicide and violence among several former players.
Catching concussions early, and resting players immediately, can help prevent that long-term damage. “Similarly to how you can’t go to any sporting event without seeing an AED on site, we want concussion testing technology, like Focus, to be as available,” Carney says.
This innovation might now earn Carney two tickets to the Super Bowl. 1st and Future, sponsored by the Mayo Clinic and NBCComcast Universal, is a three-year-old competition for startups developing technologies to advance player health, safety and performance. Carney learned of the contest a few days before the application deadline, and the company scrambled to enter.
As one of three finalists in the “New Therapies To Speed Recovery” category, Carney is now in Minneapolis representing his hometown team, the Eagles. On Saturday he will pitch his company to a panel of judges in a Shark Tank-like manner at the Guthrie Theater. The winner for each of three categories will receive two tickets to the next day’s game and a $50,000 check from the NFL.
Carney hopes EyeGuide’s participation will contribute to the notion that Philadelphia now is not just a sports powerhouse (Fly, Eagles, Fly!), but a tech town too. Although EyeGuide already designs and sells eye-controlled technologies for research and related markets in Texas, where it was was developed, the company has now found “a center of gravity” in Philly to support its future growth.
“I think we are different because this is something people really need, and it’s a solution to a pretty serious issue,” Carney says. “Hopefully we will have something to celebrate Saturday and Sunday.”Young woman uses EyeGuide Focus to test for concussion