According to statistics, 20% of US high school athletes have been diagnosed with at least one concussion. Most of these concussions occur while playing football, a fast-paced, contact game. Now, a team of researchers from Stanford University, in collaboration with TeachAids, wants to teach students, parents, and coaches of the dangers of concussions. To this end, they created CrashCourse, a VR experience where users can safely learn about the causes and symptoms of concussions. The experience is compatible with the Gear VR and Oculus Go, and is available for free on the Oculus Store. USA Football and Pop Warner Little Scholars are also part of this initiative.
A VR Football Game With Learning Opportunities
The VR experience developed with the input of a team of neurosurgeons from Stanford University immerses the users into a typical football game. It features well-known football players, such as Bryce Love of Washington Redskins, JJ Arcega-Whiteside of Philadelphia Eagles, as well as Trenton Irwin of Miami Dolphins.
VR is an incredibly powerful medium with proven ability to increase empathy and change behavior.
The entire action of this virtual reality interactive educational software is a first-person experience. The user is a player in the game and suffers three major hits in a row. After the first hits, the user has to choose whether to take a knee or continue with the game. After the third hit, the scene changes to a hospital room. Here, the player finds out that he suffered a concussion and may miss the rest of the season.
Next, Bryce Love of Washington Redskins appears in front of the player and starts explaining the entire mechanism behind concussions and the chances of recovery.
A Viewer Friendly Format for Young Audiences
The script of the CrashCourse VR experience is designed to appeal to young athletes. The information is presented in a friendly, informal manner by someone they can relate to and look up to – a professional football player.
The creators of the educational experience have designed it in a four-parts format, out of which two are currently available:
1. Interactive Game
- Athlete version with first-person VR experience
- Multi-sport youth coaches/parents/officials version
- Multi-sport high school coaches/parents/officials version
2. Symptoms Simulator
This part allows the user to experience various symptoms of concussions through audio/video stimuli embedded in HD and VR interactive films.
3. Symptoms Story Wall (Not Released Yet)
This section will feature 500 short films of real-life stories from victims of concussions. The stories will detail the cause of the concussion, the symptoms, as well as some helpful advice.
4. Brain Fly-Through (Not Released Yet)
This part will make use of the latest technology available to Stanford Medicine to take the user inside a human brain. The user will be able to explore what the brain is made of and how concussions cause injuries.
The Team behind the CrashCourse VR Experience
The core team of the Crash Course project consists of four Stanford neurology specialists: Diana Anthony (Program Manager at Stanford Neurosurgical Simulation & Virtual Reality Center), Jamshid Ghajar, MD, PhD, FACS (Director at Stanford Concussion and Brain Performance Center), Gary K. Steinberg, MD, PhD (Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery), and Gerald Grant MD, FACS (Division Chief at Pediatric Neurosurgery).
Speaking of this innovative VR experience developed for young athletes, Dr. Gerald Grant said:
“The power of CrashCourse is that it speaks to students in their own language. It’s going to make a huge impact around the world.”
The CEO of TeachAids, Dr. Piya Sorcar, also stressed the key role of VR technology in educating the younger generations:
“VR is an incredibly powerful medium with proven ability to increase empathy and change behavior. In this digital native generation, we are excited to be among the first to use the uniquely immersive features of VR to help solve important health issues. We hope that these educational materials will provide young football players, as well as youth in all sports, with the knowledge and tools necessary to keep themselves safer.”
Early Reactions to the New VR Experience
Although just recently launched, on January 24, CrashCourse has already received accolades from major sportspersons and officials. Olympic champion Katie Ledecki called the project “an important initiative” for all parties involved – young athletes, coaches, as well as parents. And Dr. Brian Hanline, NCAA Chief Medical Officer stated that this VR experience will become “a model program for improving the culture of concussion safety in sports.”