Road to recovery: Groundbreaking A.I. is helping injured Georgia truck driver get back in the seat

BioMech Lab uses state-of-the-art tech. to empower both doctors and patients

Groundbreaking A.I.-based medical technology gives Georgia man his life back.Robert, a truck driver of 35 years, suffered post-concussion syndrome following a bad fall.BioMech Clinical Motion Lab and Atlanta’s Independent Neurodiagnostic Clinic joined forces to repair Robert's traumatic injuries.Using artificial intelligence, BioMech has designed state-of-the-art quantitative medical technology to assess Robert's range of motion.Through the technology, Robert has regained the ability to balance himself and even speak

After suffering a bad fall, longtime truck driver and Georgia resident Robert Stahl found himself facing a post-concussion syndrome diagnosis.

He couldn’t talk and could barely walk at the time, but that’s all changed now. Thanks to a potentially groundbreaking state-of-the-art medical technology that utilizes artificial intelligence, Stahl is well on the road to recovery.

“I’m getting better,” Stahl told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “A little better at a time.”

Experts estimate that anywhere from 1.6 million to 4 million people suffer concussions in the U.S. each year, leading to anywhere from 240,000 to 600,000 cases of post-concussion syndrome — a cacophony of concussion symptoms ranging from movement impairment to emotional imbalances that can sometimes last years.

Tracking progress with A.I.

Originally from Chicago, Stahl moved to Georgia in 2009. For the past 35 years, he’s been driving trucks and instructing new up-and-coming drivers. But after being diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome, Stahl was no longer able to work — or do much of anything. That’s when he decided to visit Dr. Larry Empting, who oversees Atlanta’s Independent Neurodiagnostic Clinic.

“When I first started seeing Dr. Empting, I was in terrible shape,” Stahl said. “I was actually declining, rapidly, all the time. My ability to carry on a conversation, and even to walk, was terrible. My wife had to hold onto me while I walked. I bounced back and forth down the hallway like a pinball. And if you had seen me several months ago, you wouldn’t know I was the same person. I couldn’t talk several months ago. I wouldn’t be able to talk to you like I am now.”

In partnership with the Independent Neurodiagnostic Clinic, BioMech Lab — a team of scientists in biophysics, anatomy, genetics, neurophysiology, biomechanics, mathematics, materials sciences, fabrication, electrical engineering and computer science — has been putting their state-of-the-art clinical motion analytics technology to work in what has become a powerful tool for both doctors and patients. Stahl said it’s given him his life back.

“We started working with BioMech, and it’s really interesting because I get to see my progress on the screen,” Stahl said. “As a patient, it’s a help psychologically because you can actually look at the screen and say, ‘yeah, I’m getting better.’ It’s telling me that right here on the screen. I can see it.”

The technology, which utilizes artificial intelligence and machine learning, can be used in the comfort of the patient’s home with no supervision. It only requires a sensor and an iPad equipped with the technology’s app.

“They’ve made it very simple for a person to use,” Stahl said. “Putting on a sensor for testing your balance is as simple as putting on a headband and then just activating it on the iPad, and you look at a fixed point on the wall. And you just maintain whatever stance that you’ve inputted into the iPad for 10 seconds and the iPad reads the sensor, and you can see on the screen exactly how you did, instantaneously. It’s phenomenal.”

Through BioMech Lab’s technology, Stahl’s health journey quickly transformed from one of open-ended questions and subjective answers to one of analytics and hard numbers. Progress quickly followed.

“It takes a lot of guesswork out of things,” Stahl said. “Dr. Empting doesn’t have to look at me and try to make a calculated guess as to what’s going on with me. I don’t have to sit there and try to explain to him, in a manner that makes sense, what’s going on with me. He can actually look at the screen and say, ‘oh yeah, you’re definitely getting better.’ Or, ‘what happened here? You were going up, and now you kind of went down a little bit. Were you not able to see the chiropractor for a little while?’ It takes a lot of guesswork, I think, off of Dr. Empting.”

Stahl’s experience with the technology is just one example of what Dr. Empting believes will be a future filled with A.I.-assisted recovery for patients.

“We think it’s really got a chance to change our little corner of medicine,” Dr. Empting told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I spent about 10 years at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, the last three years of which was coordinated medical director of the pain treatment center. So we had all kinds of patients: head trauma, back, spine, what have you. And we were always looking for ways to quantitate how patients are improving or not improving or picking up those different clinical issues.”

That all changed when Dr. Empting began working with BioMech Lab.

“I ended up down here in Atlanta and hooking up with the BioMech folks has been just a perfect opportunity for us, because what we’re gonna be able to do is quantitate what we’re actually doing.”

The ability to quantitate patient biofeedback has taken much of the guess work out of patient treatment.

“That makes a big difference,” he said. “We’re going to be doing back, spine, Parkinson’s — we’re doing all kinds of different patient populations, (including) fall risks, stuff like that. It’s the first time we can really quantitate all these things and whether it’s the shoulder joint or back problem, concussion, these all are things that we can measure now and that’s gonna really help us.”

Artificial intelligence has been dominating headlines recently, and the news is often negative. According to a May 2023 Reuters poll, 61% of Americans believe that A.I. poses risks to humanity. And the reach of A.I. is only growing.

But as artificial intelligence continues to extend its reach in American life, BioMech Health CEO Carter Brown is focused on the usefulness of A.I. in the medical field. And he’s embracing change with confidence.

“Everyone is talking about artificial intelligence,” Brown said. “It’s the answer to everything, and it’s the demon to everything depending on who you ask, right? The fact of the matter is it is a very useful tool to solve very complicated math problems. And human motion is a complicated problem. It’s a complicated math problem.”

“BioMech Lab is a data science company that focuses on motion analytics,” he added. “Our mission is to help everyone move better. That’s important because about 70% of western medicine is laboratory based medicine. Yet, there is a variety of verticals within the healthcare space where, before BioMech Lab, there was no ability to measure — objectively — human function. So the problem that we are attempting to solve is to objectify human function to provide the ability for the patients and the providers to understand, with precision, with accuracy, and with reproducibility, the ability of the human subject to function, to walk, to balance, to create range of motion. All of those measurements, prior to BioMech Lab, were done through a combination of physician observation and patient self-reporting.”