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Bruising pants help Paralympians locate injuries

A specially designed pair of pants uses pressure-sensitive film and dye packs to help athletes who can't feel pain find where they have been injured.

Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

There's no denying paraplegic athletes are incredible at what they do, but the inability to feel pain can cause problems -- particularly for those playing extreme sports. Internal injuries can occur without visible signs, which means they can be tricky to locate for paraplegics.

Students Lucy Jung, Elena Dieckmann, Dan Garrett, and Ming Kong from the Imperial College of London and the Royal College of Art have designed a pair of sports pants that display areas of impact in vivid red, to help locate possible injury sites.

The system, called Bruise Injury Detection, uses a special pressure-sensitive film developed by Fuji. Most commonly used in printing to test whether print rollers are applying even pressure, here they've been installed in pockets stitched over common injury sites in sweat-wicking stretch fabric, for a garment that's as comfortable as possible.

When one of the films is hit, it blooms red -- the more vivid the intensity of the colour, the stronger the impact -- so that the wearer knows to check those sites after the event. The films can be replaced after use.

The garment was inspired by a talk given by Paralympian skier Talan Skeels-Piggins at the Imperial College.

"We were really inspired by what Talan had to say about competing in sport and it was great to hear about his experiences. Offhandedly, he remarked about not being able to feel his injuries after competing in high impact sporting events and it prompted us to look more into this area," Jung said.

"We found that many sportspeople often don't realise that they've injured themselves because they can't feel anything, which could have serious health implications. We hope in the future that our trousers will be used by athletes to better monitor their health and well-being."

The pants are just the first step. The team would like to develop the concept into a full bruise suit, and then into a product line.