Solutions to sport’s head injury crisis emerge from UK’s first virtual sporting ‘Hackathon’

Last weekend, Love of the Game (LOTG), the campaign which seeks to reduce concussion-related issues in sport, hosted the UK’s first sporting hackathon, to find actionable solutions to one of the greatest problems facing our modern games – early-onset dementia caused by head injuries.

The virtual ‘hakathon’ (the name inspired by LOTG’s links to rugby), organised by Hacking Health UK, brought together the brightest minds from the design, developer and engineering worlds combined with amateur and professional sports people, academics and researchers in the sport health fields. This unique selection of experts collaborated to create solutions to diagnose, grade and treat the effects of head injuries and concussion within sports.

8 teams and over 60 participants spent the weekend devising actionable solutions to problems ranging from how we can improve female brain health and support the prevention of concussion to finding preventative or diagnostic tool that can reassure parents when their children are playing higher risk sports. 24 mentors with skills ranging from smart technology and research to lived experiences of concussion supported the teams over the weekend. Participants and judges were drawn from institutions including the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial, Bath Rugby and QBE Insurance and as far afield as Ireland and Norway. The event was opened by LOTG’s President and former England rugby union player, Simon Shaw and our judging panel included dementia campaigner and LOTG Chairman Laurence Geller, Global Creative Talent and Network Director at Pentland Brands, Katie Greenyer, Sunday Times Chief Sports Correspondent, David Walsh, Rugby World Cup winner Mike Tindall and tech and media entrepreneur Lisa Winning.

Over the weekend teams drew inspiration from across sports, including BMX, cheerleading, football, skateboarding and rugby, and developed concepts and prototype ideas ranging from smart stretchers and oxygen chambers to protective head gear with in-built sensors and apps which all have the potential to help prevent, diagnose and treat head injuries before, during and after incidents.

The following teams were recognised by the judges as having winning ideas with real potential:

  • Best Prevention Solution – Appy Brain, a mobile app for female athletes to educate them on their bodies and concussion while allowing coaches to monitor their symptoms of concussion and concussion recovery
  • Best Diagnosis and/or grading solution winners – SIRIUS stretchers, a smart stretcher for rapid on-field diagnosis and treatment
  • Best solution focused on young people in sport – Helm@, an app and sensor-based data collection tool for teens to learn how to Skateboard and other sports in future
  • Best Treatment Solution – HBOT, a large objective-blinded study to assess whether Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy can act as an intervention to improve and speed up recover from a concussive event in sports
  • Best solution for women / People’s Choice – FIERCE, a smart headband that aims to improve athletes head health and protect against concussions. Crucially, it is also desirable and comfortable to wear.

The winning teams received a prize of £1000, as well as ongoing mentoring and fundraising from LOTG to help take their ideas from concept, through to the design and development stage. The next milestone for many of the teams will be Love of the Game’s ‘Demo Day’ taking place in June, which will be an opportunity for teams to showcase their concepts and pitch for pioneering funding and private investment to help drive them along the road to development and eventual adoption.

The Hakathon was backed by a host of sponsors including the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation and supported by UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and its Minister for Sport and Tourism Nigel Huddleston.

“This ground-breaking Hakathon is a wonderfully creative innovation aimed at finding solutions to prevent, diagnose and treat head injuries and concussion across all levels of sport. The Government recognises the importance of this issue and we continue to work with sports bodies to build on the positive work that is already taking place on concussions in sport.

The Hakathon is a fantastic example of creative tech-innovators collaborating to make sport safer for players and I look forward to receiving the results of their good work.”

Nigel Huddleston MP

“We are so proud of what Love of the Game and the Hakathon’s participants have achieved this weekend. As a solutions-orientated organisation, the Hakathon is a testament to what can be achieved when experts across health, sport, science, business and technology come together with a key aim in mind.

“However, this is just the beginning. We now need to ensure that these exceptional ideas are taken forward, given the appropriate financial and development backing to bring them to fruition. It is in all of our hands to facilitate meaningful change to protect players now, without jeopardising the sports we love.”

Lawrence Geller, Chairman

This weekend’s Hakathon was only the first hosted by Love of the Game and will be followed by:

  • The demo day (Late June) – a hybrid event in person and virtually centred in Manchester
  • A second hackathon (8-10 Oct) – to build on current ideas and create a range of new ideas and solutions to brain injury challenges and concussion in sports

About Love of the Game

Love of the Game is a campaign which seeks to reduce concussion-related issues arising from contact and non-contact sports. LOTG takes a solutions-based approach to developing new technologies that prevent, diagnose and treat head injuries in sport. The Love of the Game aims to reduce risk of early onset dementia to players, maintain sports as we know and love them, lengthen sporting careers and reduce the fear of taking part. We are an impassioned community of athletes, players, fans, innovators and experts, united by our love of sport and the desire to, not only protect players of all ages from the potentially devastating impact of head injuries, but also to protect the integrity of the sports we know and love. 

Media contacts

Francesca Eaton

Johanna Pemberton