Anthony Gonzales, who used to play rugby at ASU, was tackled and received a hard hit to the head in spring 2011. A teammate told Gonzales that he showed symptoms of a concussion but was not sure if he actually had one.
After the incident, Gonzales wanted to make a mouthguard that could detect if athletes actually have concussions while playing.
Gonzales, a management entrepreneurship graduate student, and Bob Merriman founded Force Impact Technology and recently patented the FIT Guard, a mouthguard that visually displays the impact an athlete endures and indicates the probability of having a concussion.
Kevin Sahakian, Gonzales' mentor and friend, helped market the mouthguard and contributed ideas for the website.
“Anthony is one of the most driven individuals I have met, and that, combined with his product, is a recipe for success,” he said.
After his experience with rugby, Gonzales wanted to create a product that would indicate when someone had a concussion, so they could receive medical attention instead of being sent back into the game.
Rugby players wear only mouthguards when competing and practicing. Gonzales wants to incorporate the technology into all sports that require a mouthguard.
“Since 47 percent of players with concussions do not report any defined symptoms, it was important for us to develop a solution, which publicly let others know that a player may be unfit to return to play,” he said.
The mouthpiece visually displays a color activated by LED lights that correlates to the likelihood that an athlete might have a concussion based on the impact.
ASU’s Great Little Company, a University-wide program overseen by the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group, awarded Force Impact Technology with a $3,000 grant and mentorship through the process of getting the new business up and running.
Gonzales and Merriman also received $5,000 from the J. Darcy foundation and invested $30,000 out of their own pockets to make their vision a reality.
“We won a business pitch competition at ASU for $5,000 dollars, and that was our 'ah-ha' moment, and we saw the idea become a company," Gonzales said.
Gonzales said his company wants to become synonymous with the standard mouthguards in the sports industry and wants its technology to be the expectation of safety.
Nicole Wilke, a former athletic trainer at ASU who worked with club sports, said she thinks the product can be very helpful.
“I think their new business and the prototype they are making may help health care professionals to assess concussions in athletes,” she said.
Gonzales and Merriman are in the process of developing software that will run the logic of the device and have already constructed a prototype. By summer 2014, the product will be sold on their website, Gonzales said.
“Our next step is to hopefully get our product in big box retailers, such as Big 5 and Dick’s Sporting Goods, and sell it nationwide," he said.
Reach the reporter at Brittany.Dierken@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @brittanydierken