N-Pro was founded by Mark and his wife, in part because of their backgrounds. Mark had a company that was developing sports helmets for the Irish sport called Hurling, and he was also involved in the development of safety standards for sports helmets. Meanwhile his wife, is involved in the medical device industry.
The area of head injuries in sport is a controversial and emotive topic. While there are developments in the diagnostic space, Mark and his wife were more interested in reducing the risk factors of the injury happening in the first place. There are two major risk factors for head injuries in rugby: linear impacts (90 degree blows to the head) and rotational impacts (glancing blows that make the head spin).
The co-founders could see a huge unmet clinical need in the sport. They applied it to the principles and processes that had traditionally been used in the medical environment.
There are a number of companies around the world looking at sports helmet development, but according to Mark, lots of companies are making unvalidated claims. When you’re looking at addressing a clinical issue, he believes all those products should be under medical device directives.
N-Pro has been through over 3 years of research and development. They started with the traditional way you would test sports head gear—bench testing and drop testing. The next step was a pre-clinical animal study.
Although some people are against animal testing, it’s still used in the medical field. Pre-clinical studies are very common in the medical device industry. Most medical devices, apart from very low-grade risk products, would have used pre-clinical studies, which some people might not know. However, that’s what commonly happens. You have to test a number of factors in the product before you can move into human testing.
There is always more to learn in the field of concussion research in sports. Mark says the current N-Pro product is only the first version of the product. They have several other designs planned for it and will be constantly innovating the product as new research and development occurs.
Head injuries are a hot topic so there are stories all the time. In terms of giving advice, he suggests managing expectations with the press. They have said clearly that the product is designed to reduce risk factors. However, a lot of the time people like to turn it into a sensational headline, that this is going to solve this issue. Mark has remained consistent in his message in the fact of this sensationalism:
“We’ve always said it’s a multifactorial response that’s needed here to address this issue.”
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