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Device Shows Concussion Effects Linger Off The Field

It’s an August tradition: Football training camps open, and we’re treated to warnings about working out in the heat.

In the past few years, however, when it comes to football, there’s been a new emphasis on traumatic brain injury (TBI). This has caught our eyes here at MedGadget.

We’ve covered innovative impact-sensing helmet technology before (as well as smart helmets for temperature monitoring). But for the athlete with a concussion, what happens off the field? Unless a neurologist is involved, it’s up to the players and trainers to follow guidelines or make guesses about when to return to play.

Hopefully that will change, and a device like BrainScope will lead the way. When we first covered BrainScope, they were positioning their new device, based on controversial technology, as a sideline decision-making aide. Now their research seems to be focused on the weeks and months post-concussion.

From BrainScope:

Electroencephalograph (EEG) is a decades-old technology that measures electrical activity in the brain from the surface of the scalp. But using it to study mild traumatic brain injury has been a challenge, in part because the technology is highly susceptible to noise, such as head movements, and it must be performed by a trained expert.

Recently companies have developed more robust, portable devices, thanks to new sensors and advances in the algorithms used to process the data they collect. Such devices also require less training for those who use them. BrainScope, a startup based in Bethesda, MD, has developed one such device, which it is testing for athletic and military applications.

In the new study, McCrea and collaborators used the BrainScope device to analyze brain activity in nearly 400 football players at the start of the season to determine baseline brain activity. Twenty-eight of those players sustained a concussion during the study period. These players had their brain activity measured again right after the incident, as well as days later. Scientists also gave the players tests currently used to assess concussion, including tests of cognitive function and balance. They then compared changes in brain activity in injured players to both noninjured players and nonathlete controls.

“It turned out that symptoms, cognitive function, and balance had all returned to normal within the first week after a concussion,” says McCrea. “But brain electrical activity remained abnormal at day eight.” Brain activity returned to normal a month and a half later, when the next measurement was taken.

BrainScope is still a research tool, and they need to work on better characterizing the post-concussive phase and comparing results to traditional neuro evaluations, but so far, this device seems to have potential.

More from BrainScope

Hat tip: MIT’s Technology Review

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

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One Response to “Device Shows Concussion Effects Linger Off The Field”

  1. Dr Synonymous says:

    Interesting and possibly useful device. Your comment that the athlete and trainer are the only decision makers is so far off as to cast a quality shadow over the rest of the post. There is ALWAYS a physician involved who is the team physician and responsible for everything done by the athletic trainer, who is not an independent practitioner. There is a vast array of guidelines and reviews for the physicians who function as team physicians regarding concussions and Medical Decisions about further evaluation and return to play. The literature about TBI in sports is dynamic and continuously changing to align with new learnings about TBI from the military and new technology from people such as the author. As the technology is related to new areas of endeavor, it would be helpful if those writing about the new applications would be more context sensitive and know about the literature overviewing the system of the new application.
    As a former college Head Team Physician, I continue to be impressed by the efforts of sports physicians and athletic trainers to protect athletes. The athlete or the trainer are not the ones making Medical Decisions such as when to be cleared to return to play, where TBI is involved,they are made by physicians.

    Concussions (TBI)are a critical injury to prevent first and evaluate for, when indicated, second and to allow recovery from, third, before return to play or permanent exclusion from contact.

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