Slaughter, local tech co. disappointed in Pentagon nixing concussion sensor program

Dec 21, 2016
Originally published on December 21, 2016 9:41 am

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter says it's baffling to hear that the Department of Defense is refusing to use a tool that was created to track the health of US service men and women.

The Pentagon has sidelined a program that placed small, wearable blast gauges, manufactured by Rochester-based company BlackBox Biometrics, on thousands of combat troops in Afghanistan. The devices were designed to help protect soldiers from exposure to blast overpressure.

"We know that it causes a mild, traumatic brain injury and that can lead into other things," Slaughter said, "There's a clear relationship between Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and issues that can show up in the future in brains, and it's not unlike what we've seen with the NFL."

Slaughter said the DoD's failure to track this is reminiscent of the NFL's slow response to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease known for affecting former football players.

In a recent letter to Slaughter, Eric Fanning, the Secretary of the Army, said the technology fails to provide consistent or reliable data. Fanning's letter came in response to two sent from Slaughter, asking officials to begin using the technology.

David Borkholder, chief technology officer at BlackBox, disputes the claims.

"The gauges have been used extensively in studies that have been run by the DoD," Borkholder said, "And in those studies they've compared them to gold standard, thousand-dollar, wired sensor systems and have shown that they are highly accurate."

Borkholder also acknowledges the economic impact of the DoD's decision.

"It reduces revenue, but we are committed to the mission of helping the war fighter and really trying to address these long-term health issues."