August 18, 2011

Concussion Breakthrough

Kevin McCarthy

The late Robert Kennedy once said "There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?" Kennedy would have liked Chase Curtiss because the latter displays an entrepreneurial streak alongside the determination to do better and he is now poised to revolutionize the identification of a dangerous medical condition of critical importance to all athletes.

photo of Mobile Concussion Manager app

Curtiss was a star basketball player at Soquel High in Santa Cruz County, and he carried that success up to University of Puget Sound where he holds the school record for the most three-pointers made (275). After earning his degree in Exercise Science, he enrolled in graduate school at Wichita State to further study exercise science and human performance. That culminated in a M.Ed. in Human Performance Studies in 2008. He is a Clinical Exercise Physiologist, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and currently the CEO of Tulsa-based Capacity Sports.

Concussions have recently become the signature injury in sports. Curtiss recognized the need for a concussion measuring tool that is quantitative, easily implemented, portable, and cost effective for sports organizations on all levels.

So he created Capacity Sports, a concussion advocacy firm addressing the growing concerns of concussion's lasting effects. He has developed software -- the Mobile Concussion Manager -- measuring balance, cognitive memory and reaction time, all factors necessary to identify and monitor concussions, from an iPhone application platform. The Mobile Concussion Manager application measures an athlete's return-to-play readiness by matching up the data recorded with a baseline or normal score.

"Results produced from the Mobile Concussion Manager are the same as leading clinical industry standards used by the NFL," said Curtiss. "Testing only takes 3-5 minutes, and it only costs $20 a year per athlete to implement."

The underreporting of concussions is also a common issue that needed resolution. Current assessment measures had their genesis in the 1980s. One is a biodex balance system which is expensive and not accessible outside of a medical setting. The Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 2 test is subjective, wholly dependent upon the skill of the individual administering it.

Additionally, trainers are paid to keep players playing while athletic managers extending down to the college and high school ranks can turn a blind eye to injury. Subjectivity influences concussion evaluation and those administering such tests tend to fault on the side opposite of caution in the name of victory.

The concept for the Mobile Concussion Manager was developed in 2009, not long after Curtiss graduated from Wichita State University, where he tested athletes for concussions with high tech lab equipment. Development of Capacity Sports, LLC and the Mobile Software began in November 2010 with state and private funding.

Curtiss explained, "It's the right tool for medical professionals, coaches and parents. For those athletes who haven't fully healed, our tool provides more objective data to track recovery, and prevent long term injury. It gives medical professionals the ammunition they need. The reward for me is not only the product, but also that our company does something to protect athletes."

Asked why something wasn't developed earlier, Curtiss said, "I asked the same question because the concept is really simplistic."

Now high schools, club teams, youth leagues, colleges and professional teams in all sports, even the U.S. military should have an interest in this application.

Building a brand is nothing new to Curtiss. He developed and ran basketball camps during summers in high school, describing it as "more fun than regular work." During college, along with his father and brother, he developed Shot Science Basketball, a basketball training program for youth. Sensing a need for expert training for critical basketball skills, the Curtiss' filmed a series of training videos, went online with them, and ultimately were named a national winner of the YouTube NextUp award for their innovative training videos. Only 25 entries were selected and a $35,000 prize was awarded to each winner.

Curtiss sees the irony in his current occupation -- "I knew early on I didn't want a 9-5 job. Now I have a 6 a.m. to 9 p.m one."

He found a niche and filled it, built a better mousetrap; apply your own choice of axiom.

Today, the favorite phrase in the Curtiss household is "there's an app for that."