Help Is on the Way: UVA Students Streamline Athletic Injury Care

May 22, 2024 By Christine Phelan Kueter, kueter@virginia.edu Christine Phelan Kueter, kueter@virginia.edu

An app to speed medical care to injured athletes, developed by a pair of University of Virginia students, has just been made available nationwide through the Apple Store, just a few weeks after the students’ idea won the top prize of $20,000 in the UVA Entrepreneurship Cup.

The app that won the “Shark Tank”-style competition at UVA puts in the palm of an athletic trainer’s hand a facility’s emergency action plan. That’s the detailed set of instructions on how to initially treat an injury or illness, whom to notify, even who has the keys to unlock gates for first responders.

The current standard practice for emergency action plans – or EAPs for short – is to print them on paper or index cards, said nursing student Jacob Swisher, one half of the winning team. Delays in locating a binder can lead to an athlete’s prolonged suffering, or worse. Swisher's idea was to create something more functional and interactive. 

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After taking professor Charles “Chip” Ransler’s entrepreneurship class, Swisher figured there might be a market for a product that would put EAPs on athletic trainers’ phones. 

“In entrepreneurship, people say you develop something to ‘scratch your own itch,’” said Swisher, who just finished his first year in the Clinical Nurse Leader program and is on track to become a nurse in 2025. “You solve your own problem, and then realize the solution you came up with is needed everywhere.”

He tried simple solutions at first, like using his phone to take photos of a plan’s pages, but realized he needed more technical know-how. 

He reached out to a “friend of a friend,” A.J. Peppers, an engineering student with just that kind of expertise. Together, Swisher and Peppers built a prototype in a month, and they started to dream a little bigger for what they called “EZ-EAP.”

For Peppers, who graduated this spring, working on an app that had a noble purpose motivated him. 

“When you think of app development, you think of ‘Candy Crush,’ or ‘Clash of Clans,’ and there’s a distinct profit motivation,” Peppers said. “It’s meant to be entertainment. … I thought EZ-EAP was cool because it’s helping people react to what are critical situations, preventing injuries and, in the worst situations, saving lives.”

They entered their idea into the UVA Entrepreneurship Cup in the fall, where it survived all the initial rounds of scrutiny. In April, they advanced to the finals to face nine other student inventors, all seeking money to bring their ideas to market. In April, they won. 

EZ-EAP is a subscription-based service designed for emergency response at high schools and universities. Like Spotify and other enterprise products, users will input their own information to build out emergency response workflows to have, at their fingertips, details about how they need to respond to the injury or emergency situation, and who they need to notify. 

UVA athletic trainers like Ashley Doozan Murray are already fans. Murray, an associate athletic trainer for UVA football players, said the app will remove athletic trainers’ administrative burdens and will benefit sports “across the board at all levels: high school, college and professional.”

“With the click of a button,” Murray said, “everyone’s on the same page.”

The app, Swisher said, will be useful to more people than just athletic trainers. He imagines a need at construction sites, in factories, at pools, clubs, gyms – in other words, where accidents happen.

“Emergency action plans are everywhere,” Swisher said, “but we sure can make them a whole lot better.”