Summer CSGC Grant Update: Helping Concussion Patients Through Developing A Symptoms Tracking App

Last fall, my water polo season unfortunately ended abruptly when I was hit in the head, and suffered a concussion during the second to last game of the season. At the time, I was only concerned about missing the final game but little did I know how a single seemingly short term event would impact the rest of my school year mentally, physically, academically and socially.

I feel like when most people think of concussions, they think of being knocked out, having a headache, possibly being sensitive to light and sound, possibly being a bit nauseous but eventually, fully recovering within a couple days. That’s what I thought too, especially since I wasn’t even knocked unconscious. However, the reality is that it’s not uncommon for concussion symptoms to drag on for weeks, months, and in some cases even years. One study which focused exclusively on headaches, estimating that 43% of patients aged 5-17 who had a concussion, still had prevalent headaches three months after the injury, and 41% a year later.

For me, over a period of 5 months, while I continued to be a student, an athlete, and a teenager living life, I constantly dealt with headaches, had difficulty concentrating, and difficulty falling asleep. Eventually, I lost track of whether I was even making progress recovering or not since my life had too many variables to account for, and this only caused more anxiety, hopelessness, and stress.

That was the problem, for an injury like a concussion with symptoms which could worsen from so many different things, and for a kid who had so many different things going on in their life which they couldn’t put a pause on, the only thing I could do was to try tracking what activities I was doing and the duration of the symptom each time I had one in order to figure out what was specifically causing the symptoms and if I was getting better or not. On one hand, I used pen and paper to do this, but formatting, organizing, viewing my data not even including sharing my data to my doctors/teachers/coaches was too inefficient and hard. On the other hand, I imagine tracking on a Google Spreadsheet would be equally as frustrating since the data you input would be difficult to make anything of, unless you spent extra effort programming tables and charts to go along with it.

That’s why I came up with the idea to create a concussion tracking app to streamline concussion progress for patients (specifically but not limited to students) as well as for their support network of doctors, teachers, coaches, etc. The app I’m designing has three main functions: record, analyze, and share data all through an intuitive user interface. So far, I’ve already conducted market research on similar apps, consulted with those who’ve had experience with concussions, design features and functionalities, made mockups of the app, and am learning the program language I will need.

By the fall I plan on having a beta version of the app to test, and eventually release the app in the App Store for anyone to download. Since I know how hard it is for a student to go through a concussion with academics, co-curriculars and clubs, I’ll be focusing first on working with other students and the Deerfield health center to make the best app for everyone. Thank you CSGC and the Workman family for helping me and I look forward to giving more updates soon!

-Jerry Huang ’23