Photo by Hilary Douwes and Gina Porter 


Hamstring injuries attacked by students at Brainstorm-a-Palooza

University of Delaware faculty and Athletic Department staff were looking for a new solution to an old problem for athletes, especially football players — hamstring pulls — so they tried something different: The first and potentially annual Brainstorm-a-Palooza.

UD students from multiple majors across campus were offered a break from studying for final exams – and the potential to win prizes. Nearly 70 students competing in 17 teams turned out for the event, sponsored by the Innovation Health Design Lab in the College of Health Sciences, and held in the North Atrium of the Health Sciences Complex. The goal was to develop wearable technology ideas as part of a Henswear collaboration with UD Athletics.

“We wanted this to be a study break that sounded really fun and out of the box,” said Martha Hall, Director of Innovation for the College of Health Sciences. “Our idea was to get students thinking about new ideas with no expectations about what they came up with.”

The inaugural Brainstorm-a-Palooza brought together 67 students in 17 teams from majors across campus to help come up with new ideas to help UD Football players.
The inaugural Brainstorm-a-Palooza brought together 67 students in 17 teams from majors across campus to help come up with new ideas to help UD Football players.

Hamstring strains are common in football players. They’re also a labor intensive injury for athletic trainers to deal with because the typical treatment involves taping athletes to help support the hamstring and reduce discomfort. One of the hopes through the Henswear collaboration is the development of something to reduce the need for extensive taping.

At the start of the brainstorming session, Assistant Head Athletic Trainer Brandon DeSantis, who is working with the Innovation Health Design Lab on the Henswear project, demonstrated the taping challenges with the help of three athletic trainers and two UD football players. After a quick icebreaker to get the creativity pumping, teams were sent off for 45 minutes to brainstorm ideas.

Along the way, “floating mentors” from the College of Engineering, the College of Health Sciences and the athletic training department answered students’ questions and offered feedback.

“One student told me, ‘I study rocks. How am I going to do this?’ I said that didn’t matter because it’s about the ideas,” said Hall, adding that one student who is an amateur climber used climbing belts to rig a prototype. “Sometimes when you think you know something really well, you tend to be limited in how you handle it.”

For DeSantis and the UD trainers and student athletes, the Brainstorm-a-Palooza was a chance to engage with students in the idea-making process as it was happening. “The participants were able to come up with some great designs while receiving feedback from our athletic trainers who apply the device and the student athletes who wear the device,” DeSantis said.

In addition to winning gift cards, the top two teams will have their ideas turned into senior design projects in the College of Engineering next fall. Hanna Mohler, Nico Repelle, Lexi Gilbert and Taylor Modica won first place at Brainstorm-a-Palooza, earning a $500 gift card. Olivia Greene, Emily Crutchfield, Amanda Kelly and Paige Palli placed second, winning a $300 gift card. Talia Cohen, Kristen Benavente and Daniel Prado placed third, earning a $200 gift card.

“We want to figure out a way to keep this going because the students really enjoyed it,” Hall said. “It helped us build a connection with students as we build our connection with UD Athletics.”

DeSantis agreed, calling the partnership between UD’s Sport Performance Team and the Innovation Health Design Lab invaluable.

“Through our collaboration, we are developing wearable technology that will directly benefit UD student-athletes and set our athletic program apart from many others across the country,” he added.