Bruise pants tell paralympians where they should be hurting

Most athletes know when they have been seriously injured, by the intense sense of pain in the affected area. But what if you're a paralympian with a spinal cord injury that has left you with no sense of feeling below the waist? This can be a major problem, and paraplegic athletes have been known to continue in a competition even when they have unknowingly broken a limb.

These 'bruise pants' are designed to fix that problem, by giving the athlete a visual indication of just how badly they may have been injured. The custom-fitted pants have small pockets in several vital areas, where you can slip in a special pressure-sensitive plastic film insert loaded with colored dye. When the film is sharply impacted, the magenta dye rises to the surface to show where the athlete was struck. The size and darkness of the discoloration also gives an indication of just how hard the blow was. The film was originally developed for the newspaper printing process to check the evenness of the print roller pressures, but it seems to be equally effective at measuring blows against human flesh. To test its suitability, the researchers used animal carcasses in an impact jig called a drop tower. This allowed them to see how much of the dye would be released with a measurable level of impact, and develop a chart to help end users determine when an blow should be followed up with professional medical care.

The pants were developed by students at London's Imperial College and The Royal College of Art, who were inspired by British paralympian skier Talan Skeels-Piggins. He told them how he often doesn't know when he's been hurt, or how bad the injury is, and how this can result in a delay in getting treated. The pants are useful for athletes in sports like sit skiing, wheelchair basketball and motor racing, but eventually they plan to make a matching jacket to expand the number of sports where it could be useful.

Imperial College London, via Wired

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