It’s now possible to detect whether a young athlete has concussion with a simple vision test taking just 2 minutes. The test which can be administered by a coach or even a parent, is easy, inexpensive, reliable and, according to researchers at Langone Concussion Center at New York University, offers an affordable way for youth leagues to evaluate and safeguard their players.
A fall or collision during training or play requires the athlete to be tested for concussion. The test most normally used at the sidelines, the Standardized Assessment of Concussion, is comprised of several parts and should ideally be administered and evaluated by a medical professional. However, few schools and youth leagues have access to such resources and, generally, testing for concussion is carried out by volunteer coaches or parents. Thanks to the researchers at the Langone Concussion Center, this new diagnostic tool means that coaches and parents have an easy to administer but reliable test to check for concussion.
This simple test is based on the connection between the brain’s pathways and visual processing, and the fact that eye tests are a good indicator of how well the brain is working. Until now, visual tests have not been standard protocol when testing for sideline concussion, however the study’s author, Dr. Steven Galetta, knew that such tests had been used as a supplement to the standardised assessment for athletes in sports such as boxing. Known as the King-Devick test, the athlete is asked to read lines of numbers on three cards as quickly as they can. If an injured player reads the numbers more slowly following an impact to the head than during a baseline test, they are considered to have concussion.
The researchers at N.Y.U. decided to test this on young athletes, who were all asked to complete a baseline Standardized Assessment of Concussion test prior to the season, together with a balance test and the King-Devick test. Any athletes who hit their heads during the season were then put through all the tests by their coaches or parents under the supervision of the researchers. Their findings showed that the King-Devick test offered the greatest reliability, with the lowest risk of false positives.