Innovation Sports Challenge 2020

The convergence of medicine and sports is well established for the prevention and treatment of sports injuries, from musculoskeletal to head injury. There are numerous examples showing that elite-level sports are well versed in the design and development of protective equipment, such as helmets, pads and guards that can range from soft materials, such as those in mouth guards, to hard plastics for shin guards and face shields. Historically, these designs and developments have occurred in response to injury prevention. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, competitive sports are now faced with a new challenge: the prevention of spread of contagious disease.

UCLA Health is the official medical provider for some of the nation’s leading sports franchises. UCLA Health, through its innovation program, UCLA Biodesign, in partnership with UCLA Health’s Infectious Disease and Sports Medicine programs, seeks proposals to the “UCLA Health Innovation Challenge – Sports Performance Personal Protective Equipment (PPE),” in an effort to help these athletic organizations safely return to their fields of play.  (Note: the acronym PPE in sports is also commonly used to refer to a Preparticipation Physical Evaluation.)

The Challenge

Collegiate and professional sports require a well-executed offensive and defensive strategy. In the face of COVID-19, a new defensive strategy is needed to arm collegiate and professional athletes with a form of equipment that protects them from droplet transmission that could potentially occur in close-contact competitive sports, such as basketball. Please be creative but think of solutions that work well with high performing athletes. Note designs already in use as basketball players have several forms of protective equipment, such as mouth guards, ankle or knee braces, goggles, and occasionally face masks in the case of recovery from a broken nose or other facial injury. 

Submissions should include market analysis, a detailed design concept and working prototype of a personal protective equipment concept, with an emphasis on basketball given the close contact that occurs in this sport without any PPE. The design may be used in conjunction with existing protective equipment (e.g., goggles, mouth guards, etc.) or be a standalone unit. Consideration for the product lifecycle, including manufacturability, usability and cleaning or maintenance is encouraged. Submissions will be judged on the criteria outlined below:

  1. Overall design concept and execution
  2. Degree of player protection
  3. Sports performance (e.g., movement, breathing, etc.)
  4. Integration into sports experience (e.g., fans, media)
  5. Ease of manufacturability


The Innovation Sports Challenge is open to members of the UCLA community, who may partner with outside entities to engage in co-creation. Each submission needs one UCLA faculty member on team.

Submission Deadline: June 12, 2020