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Rezon’s game-changing innovation: brain protection in sports

Every head impact in sports has the potential to be life-changing, and career-ending for professional and amateur athletes. The brain is at great risk not just from a single concussion but more so from multiple sub-concussions. These are 500 times more common than concussions and the force needed to cause them is 2-3 times less. Sub-concussions are “silent” injuries as they do not produce evident signs or symptoms, but present the greatest risk of long-term neurodegenerative consequences, in particular, CTE.

According to recent estimates, 69 million people worldwide suffer a TBI annually.

A recent study found that the incidence rate ranged from 47 to 850 cases per 100,000 people annually, while the mortality rate ranged from 3 to 28 cases per 100,000 people annually. The global incidence rate varies according to age, region, and exposure to other risk factors, as reported in different statistical sets.

Rezon's logo

By focusing on the problem of concussion and sub-concussion, Rezon has developed Halos®, a ground-breaking protective headband, which is the first CE-marked and medically certified product of its type globally.

At Strata, we are working very closely with Rezon to raise non-dilutive funding to take their innovation to the next level.

Judith McMinn is a business leader focused on innovation and change and the Founder and CEO of Rezon. One simple question has started her journey: “Why do we protect our shins and our teeth in sport but not the brain?”

There is a good “Rezon” for us to protect our brains

In 2020, Judith found a gap in the market for brain protection. A helmet protects the skull, while a scrum cap prevents surface cuts, lacerations, and cauliflower ears. Therefore, these products do not stop the brain from rotating inside the skull after an impact. “Helmets, scrum caps, rugby headguards are designed to protect the skull, but not to protect the brain and reduce concussions and sub-concussions. I needed to develop brain protection that addresses both of these points» says Judith.

They developed Halos®, a protective headband that has been on the market for two years. Today, Halos® is sold for 13 sports internationally and is worn in Premier League academies and in Premiership Rugby in the UK. Halos® has also received early market traction in the US.

Halos® reduces concussion risk by 74%. Furthermore, Halos® reduces sub-concussions, the small force impacts, which are five hundred times more frequent than a concussion in sports. Sub-concussions pose a greater risk than concussions as they lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which is early-onset dementia. Halos® specifically reduces rotational forces by up to 61%, which are more damaging to the brain than linear forces. “There is no other product globally that can do better than that. ” says Judith.

First legal and CE marked product to come to the market

Rezon's headgear

“It became the first CE-marked piece of non-helmeted headgear,” says Judith.

“It is a huge untouched market but not for elementary technology, which the market is flooded with at the moment. Actually, very very few products are informed by brain experts, and we are very lucky that we are informed by the world’s leading brain experts.” says Judith.

There are two main features that distinguish Halos® from other concussion headbands. “Firstly, Halos® reduces rotational forces while most of the alternatives are only focused on linear forces. Second, it focuses on sub-concussions as well as concussions. Our design covers 80% of where you’re most likely to take a head impact in sport. The back and the sides are the most damaging because they cause the brain to rotate the most. Our design and our focus on reducing sub-concussion and the rotational forces to the brain is what sets us apart.” explains Judith.

Moreover, Rezon is an eco-friendly brand that became a B-corp last summer. “Our carbon footprint per product is 0.4 kg, it’s a really really low carbon footprint. The product is 100% recyclable at the end of its life,” adds Judith.

The biggest challenge: Lack of education about the brain in sports

Consumer Knowledge is the biggest challenge for Judith in this business. “People do not know what they do not know. There is resistance to change in sports, and people who do not want to accept that brain injury is a risk, so they do not want to have the debate. The understanding people have about the brain and brain injury in sport is a dogma, it is not from expert positions,” explains Judith.

Judith highlights that women are at a higher risk of brain injury in sports. 80% of what is known about concussion comes from studies involving male participants. “Children who take head impacts under the age of 12 grow up to be cognitively disadvantaged,” says Judith.

Judith predicts that there will be changes in people’s understanding in the same way that people now have a better understanding of sun damage and the need to use protection. “There will be a huge learning around the brain and protecting the brain, understanding how little causes damage to the brain.” Secondly, Judith believes that there will be a real desire to have a wearable that goes beyond very basic physical measures, and actually the desire to understand the brain. “The brain is the last frontier when it comes to knowing about our bodies. We have the luxury of knowing every part of our body, but the brain is still relatively unknown,” adds Judith.

Rezon is committed to encouraging players to take brain health more seriously. “Why would you not want to reduce your risk of concussion by wearing the headband? It’s so thoughtless,” says Judith. They hope to see the adoption of wearable technology.

Halos® goes beyond protection in sports

“We already have it in a construction helmet, and it is also a medical device. It’s sold to people with neurological needs of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, stroke victims, epilepsy,” says Judith.

Rezon is also working on brain injury detection and performance monitoring. They have a strategic partnership with the US company Cogwear, which develops the world’s first in motion electroencephalography (EEG) technology. Together with Rezon, they are working on brain injury detection and  player performance measurement.

“The headband detects elevated risk of brain injury where you have exceeded safe thresholds for rotational forces. It also evaluates performance, it gives a measure of stress, fatigue, engagement, distraction and team synchrony. So, it is the ultimate wearable when it comes to performance. The brain is what determines performance. Performance does not come from below the neck it comes from the brain, and that has been quite neglected in sports. We want to do a clinical trial with that product to then secure CE and bring it to market in late 2025,” says Judith, referring to the combined Rezon-Cogwear collaboration.

“Performance comes from the brain.”

Advice for entrepreneurs

“Perseverance. It takes so long. You have got to stick with it. Particularly when you are leading the way in technology that the public has not embraced or understood. So, perseverance I think is the big one, and most people that are entrepreneurs are impatient and ambitious.” says Judith.

It took Judith twenty years to do something since she realized about the problem,and it took her two years to bring it to market. “My advice would be don’t wait 20 years. So, particularly for younger entrepreneurs, if you got something, go with it,” says Judith.

Strata and Rezon

“I was recommended to Strata by a connection here in the UK. He suggested that you would be able to assist me in some grant applications. I have found the team very knowledgeable and very supportive. I look forward to doing more work together.” says Judith.

Rezon took a unique approach to the problem of the lack of protective sports headgear. It is clear that they will raise awareness of the importance of brain protection, and will improve the lives of many sports players with their technology. Together with the experts at Strata, Rezon’s innovation will grow and pave the way for funding.

So, protect your brain to stay in the game!

Special thanks to Judith McMinn for having this interview with Strata.

Interview and article written by Damla Yildirim.

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