Bruise (Team Bruise)
From the curators: Bruise is a wearable technology that alerts its user to injuries of all kinds–from fractures to soft tissue damage and joint trauma–through the use of pressure-sensitive film embedded in sports clothing. When the wearer sustains trauma the film changes color through a chemical reaction, leaving the location and severity of impact clearly indicated as bright red stains on the fabric surface. The technology was devised by Royal College of Art and Imperial College London Design Innovation graduate students Lucy Jung, Daniel Garrett, Ming Kong, and Elena Dieckmann (collectively known as Team Bruise), who were inspired by this post’s author, paralympian Talan Skeels-Piggins. Although Bruise was initially intended for athletes who, due to prior nerve damage, found it difficult to tell the extent of injuries that occurred during training and competition, the application of Bruise technology could be used by others–for example, elderly people–who suffer degenerative nerve conditions.
Some would say I am a victim of primeval violence, and others would argue that violence has enabled me to become the person I was destined to be. Either way, violence has played a significant role in my life, and the threat of it continues to do so.
What type of violence do I refer to? “Primeval violence,” or blunt force trauma. Neanderthal man used it to his advantage to hunt, enforce will, discipline, and destroy. This sort of violence remains with us today in similar incarnations, as well as manifesting in arenas like sport, art, design, and accidents.
Getting run over by a car in 2003 meant my spine suffered massive blunt force trauma, shattering the vertebrae at T4 and T5 level, destroying the spinal cord, and resulting in me being paralyzed from the chest down. An end to life, or so I believed at the time. How could a man whose whole existence was physical activity survive to live from a wheelchair? In simple terms you grieve, accept the conditions imposed on you, look forward to how life can be lived, and challenge yourself to be more than the cripple that others see.
I set myself goals: to compete in Alpine ski racing at the 2010 Winter Paralympics, to become the worlds first ACU-licensed paralyzed motorcycle racer to compete against able-bodied racers, to reach the edge of the Victoria Falls, to remain on active service as an officer in the Royal Navy Reserves. I have achieved all of these goals, but it hasn’t been easy. I have failed far more times than I have succeeded. In the course of reaching these personal and professional milestones, some failures have involved a terrible price to pay for lessons in “how not to do something.”
I have broken my neck, back, right foot, and ribs. I have shattered my right femur, left fibular/tibia, all the bones in my left foot. I’ve suffered countless concussions, been knocked unconscious eight times, and had one traumatic brain injury, which has left my short-term memory weakened.
All these injuries resulted from blunt force trauma, that ancient violence of impact, stun, blow, crash, knock. Sometimes I don’t realize how bad the damage is—if I realize there’s any at all—until time passes and the injury fails to heal. Not being able to feel your body can leave you vulnerable to undetected wounds. This might soon become one less concern with the emergence of Bruise.
Bruise is a working design concept that utilizes reactive film to indicate when that piece of film has received a significant blunt force trauma. If violence occurs, and the impact strength is considered enough to cause bone damage, the film changes color. Wearing the film in a set of leggings allows the user to monitor their body.
The uses do not limit themselves to the world of paraplegia, but to anyone who is active: to the elderly with balance issues, to the motivated athlete that ignores pain, to those who cannot communicate—really, anyone and everyone who wants to know about potential injury from violence caused by blunt force trauma.
Bruise is not designed to prevent injury from violence, but it will allow for timely treatment so further complications are avoided. Violence is traumatic enough, without allowing it to become something even greater.