Six years ago, retired Wall Street executive Richard Uhlig watched his youngest son sustain a concussion during a hockey game. Throughout his son’s recovery period, Uhlig realized the diagnosis and management of concussion relied almost entirely on the physician’s subjective assessment. He was surprised that even in the digital age, objective, reliable diagnostic tools for such a serious brain injury were sorely lacking.
Concussions are not uncommon in school athletes. In a 2017 survey by the Centers for Disease Control, 15.1 percent of school-aged Americans — roughly 2.5 million kids — reported having at least one concussion the previous year, and 6 percent reported two or more.
Uhlig studied biology at Cornell University before beginning his banking career, so he dusted off his scientist hat and quickly consumed 20 years of literature on concussion. Then he formed Quadrant Biosciences and enlisted the help of concussion specialists at SUNY Upstate Medical University to begin developing a digital, data-based solution to identify and track concussion.
“The likelihood of a second concussion or orthopedic injury increases as much as three times following a concussion,” explained Chrys Chrysanthou, president of Motion Intelligence at Quadrant Biosciences. “When you look at athletes who have sustained life-threatening injuries, paralysis or even death due to concussion — it’s usually a second, third or fourth concussion. Because the risks increase dramatically with multiple concussions, we need a way to be more definitive about returning somebody to a risky situation.”
Concussion isn’t the only condition that affects cognitive function. As the team at Quadrant Biosciences quickly realized, their concussion assessment could have far-reaching implications.
“Rarely does a day go by without a major media outlet publishing something on concussion, dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, ADHD, PTSD or some other neurological condition that’s on the rise,” says Chrysanthou. “Something like one in four people will suffer some sort of cognitive impairment in their lifetime. Yet there hasn’t been an effective way of tracking brain health. When you go in for your annual wellness visit, your doctor does a host of blood and urine tests. What do we do for the brain during that visit? For most people — greater than 95 percent — we do nothing.
“Creating a tool that can longitudinally track the health of an individual’s brain was, for us, a critical first step to taking the issue seriously.”