Could Microsoft Surface help the NFL to prevent brain injuries?

Can a professional-grade player health tracking app help NFL teams to cut down on head trauma and other serious injuries? (original image: Shutterstock)

In the NFL, head trauma and other injuries are no joke. How does a team's medical staff know which call to make after a nasty blow? Can technology help them to know whether it's best to leave a player in the game or send him to the showers? Microsoft believes that a new enterprise app for Surface could play a role in helping teams to answer those tough questions. As part of a broader Surface on the Sidelines initiative, the X2 app is one of the best examples we've seen of how a professional-focused PC like the Surface Pro could potentially be used to actually change the way people work.

X2 for the NFL

X2 is an app that you'll probably never use, or even see. But that doesn't necessarily make it any less important. It's an extensive, constantly-evolving database of NFL player health information. We're looking at a treasure trove of data for team medical personnel, as well as advanced information that non-medical staffers should be able to access and understand.

What does the NFL's X2 app do? For starters, baselines will be established at the beginning of the season for each player, and updated in real-time. Things like emergency contact info, medications, allergies, past surgeries, labs, and hospitalization history for each player are all waiting at a glance. MRI info, X-rays, labs, and current injuries are explained in detail. Team doctors can even order prescription drugs from the app. Entire careers worth of player health and surgery information will be available at the touch of a finger (or stylus).

We imagine that teams would already have much of this info ... somewhere. But the X2 app puts it in one very accessible, very portable place. It can live just as easily on the field as it can on a shelf in the trainers' offices.

Question and answer

The app isn't, however, only focused on tracking past data. Team staff can also use it to gather new data from players in real time, and then use that data to make the best call.

When a player takes a nasty hit, they'll hand a Surface to a player, and the app will prompt him to fill out a detailed questionnaire. We're talking questions that look for concussion symptoms, serious injuries, and even seemingly minor aches and pains that could be handy to know about if something more serious turns up down the road. Staffers can then use that data to (theoretically) catch the yellow and red flags, and possibly prevent more serious injuries.

"Instead of the medical team running onto the field when something happens and writing all this stuff on their hands, they'll be able to take Surface with them," explained Brian Seitz, Senior Marketing Manager for Surface. "And one of the staff members can input critical information straight into the system, as opposed to having to wait and do it later."

Old dog, new trick

Of course it's easy to showcase the app's virtues to the press. Convincing team physicians and medical personnel to change a lifetime full of work habits might not be as easy. And you can't ignore the fact that the whole initiative is designed to expose the Surface as a next-gen professional PC to millions of fans.

But based on the quick glimpse we got, we think teams would be crazy not to take advantage of the wealth of information tracking this app provides. We walked away from our demo with an impression of a Grade A enterprise app that could actually benefit NFL staffers and (even more so) players. Balancing the pressures of competition with long-term player health will always be a tough call, but this is one example where we think technology could help make that call a little bit easier.

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