Keeping Ahead of Concussions With a St. Louis Startup

Posted by on Sep 10, 2014 in Featured Stories, Innovation Tuesday | 0 comments


Click here to hear Ben Harvatine’s interview with KMOX Radio’s Charlie Brennan

Ben Harvatine remembers well the incident that prompted him to develop a device aimed at detecting potential concussions in young athletes.

At the time of the episode, however, Harvatine wasn’t clearly remembering much of anything at all.

It happened during a wrestling practice, when Harvatine was a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010. “I don’t know the moment that I got my actual concussion,” said Harvatine, in a promotional video for Jolt Sensor.

“Between dehydration, a boiling hot practice room and repeated knocks to the head, I didn’t know why I was dizzy. I just pushed through it like I always did. By the time I realized something was wrong, it was too late.”

Harvatine was later diagnosed with a concussion.

“Through the ensuing hospital visits and months of recovery, the same thought kept crossing my mind – how could this have been prevented?” said Harvatine.

Thus was born Jolt Sensor – a roughly inch-and-a-half-sized wearable sensor that allows parents and coaches to keep track of a young athlete’s head impacts in real time.

The device can be attached to any piece of head-worn athletic equipment, such as a helmet, a headband or goggles.

If a dangerous impact is detected, the device will vibrate to alert the athlete, and it will send a notification to the smartphones of parents and coaches. At that point, the athlete can be pulled out of the game and evaluated via a two minute cognitive test, and a concussion checklist featured on the Jolt Sensor app.

Harvatine emphasizes Jolt Sensor is a precautionary, rather than a diagnostic tool. After the sideline test, if there is a concern about a possible concussion, the athlete can be taken to see a medical professional, with the information collected by the app given to the doctor to explain what has happened.

“Our target market right now is athletes of high school age and younger,” said Harvatine. That’s because most college and professional sports teams already have access to various sideline concussion tests, and have trained medical professionals at the ready on the sidelines. “We’re really trying to target players that don’t have access to those resources. We want to provide them an affordable, easy to use tool to help them get something close to the quality of care the colleges and professionals use.”

Harvatine and business partner Seth Berg have launched a Kickstarter campaign aimed at raising $60,000. If successful, Harvatine says the device could ship by April of next year.

All of this, after Jolt Sensor received funding from Arch Grants, the non-profit that offers $50,000 grants to startups that relocate to St. Louis.

Harvatine notes that Arch Grants, and in an interesting footnote, brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, are responsible for his moving his company to St. Louis.

Following his 2012 graduation from MIT, he worked for a year at the brewery, completing a global management trainee program.

“It was a rotation based program. I spent the first six weeks in St. Louis, then over the course of the next year I probably spent a total of three or four months here,” said Harvatine.

“I liked it. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have applied for an Arch Grant had I not worked in St. Louis for Anheuser Busch. I’m from the east coast, as is my family. St. Louis really wasn’t a place that crossed my mind as a place to move my business to. A-B gave me a glimpse of the community. I have a lot of friends here, and it’s been great moving back.”

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