During his time playing basketball, first in high school in California and then at University of Puget Sound, Chase Curtiss ’06 had four concussions.
Back then, says Curtiss, who graduated as one of the leading three-point shooters in school history, the treatment was still pretty rudimentary, and trainers often relied on a visual evaluation and asking questions like “Who’s the president of the United States?”
That’s all changed, thanks to new technology and smartphones. And Curtiss’ experience as an athlete was part of what got him into the increasingly crowded market of mobile neurological assessment. Curtiss is CEO of Oklahoma-based Sway Medical, which he founded in 2010 to provide mobile tools and metrics to athletic trainers and doctors. The company has grown: Last September, Sway received $4.2 million in venture-capital funding, and his app has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a medical device.
“I started the company soon after the first iPhones came out, so I knew there was a huge opportunity to leverage that platform,” says Curtiss, who studied exercise science at Puget Sound, then neuroscience in grad school at Wichita State. He hopes to differentiate his company from its competitors because the app has patented the use of mobile phones’ built-in motion sensors. This allows trainers and doctors to assess an athlete’s balance without expensive devices, and it’s attracted business from major colleges like Boise State and Gonzaga.
While much of the focus for now is on athletics, Curtiss is hopeful that Sway’s tools will increasingly be applied to other conditions, including post-stroke rehabilitation, as well as with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients. “That’s where I think we can have a lasting impact,” he says. “If you can quantify different metrics in those conditions, it would be a huge deal.”