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Virtual reality app simulates concussions to educate athletes

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NFL Data Shows Jump in Concussions Reported

Sunday's Super Bowl is already a distant memory for some, but for family members of an athlete aspiring to one day make it to the big game, recent concerns related to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in sports continue to loom large.

Major movies like Concussion,starting Will Smith, turned the relatively niche issue of CTE into a mainstream debate over whether it's safe to allow your children to play sports like football given what we now know.

Now, in an attempt to address some of the ongoing concerns around concussions in football, a team from the University of Arizona has created a virtual reality app called BrainGainz.

The app puts the user a college football arena and challenges you to make a punt return, a ball-carrying move that can result in being hit by multiple defensive players. After a few tries, the game makes sure that you get tackled with concussion-level impact by an opposing player.

After the hit, you're given the choice to either attempt to continue playing or sit out and recover from the concussion. What the app does is simulate the visual disorientation common during concussion incidents. The virtual demonstration appears to be an attempt to get real athletes to think twice before trying to "shake off" a possible concussion and return to game play.

Ignoring obvious concussion effects can result in "underreporting of head blows, which can lead to serious short- and long-term consequences from a second concussion — known as secondary impact syndrome, or SIS — before the brain has been allowed to heal," said Hirsch Handmaker, one of the people behind the app, in a statement on the university's website.

Optimized for use with Google Cardboard, the team says that the app works on both Android and iOS devices (although it hasn't been released to the public yet).

The app was presented to the NCAA and the Department of Defense on Friday as part of the Mind Matters program, a $7 million initiative designed to encourage discussion of and research into concussions.

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