Quick sideline test may indicate concussion

    A new test that can be performed at the sidelines of sporting events can accurately detect concussions in athletes in less than a minute.

    University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine researchers found the test captures impairments of eye movement which may suggest the brain has been injured.

    Steven Galetta, author of a study on the test, said half of the brain’s pathways are devoted to vision. So determining if eye movement and focus are impaired is a good way to check the brain.

    “In terms of circuitry, the eye movement system is pretty much all over our brain because vision is so important to daily activities,” he said. “That system has evolved to virtually be involved in every structure of the central nervous system about the spinal cord.”

    The test tracks subtle vision problems in athletes by having them read single-digit numbers written on small cards after head trauma. It should take them about 40 seconds to read.

    If it takes an athlete even five seconds longer to read than a baseline test, it may mean a brain injury has occurred.

    Senior author Laura Balcer said any coach or parent can be trained to give the test.

    “It means now that we have a rapid, objective way on the sidelines to determine, particularly in cases where we definitely see a head trauma, whether an athlete has injuries and. Importantly, to decide whether they need further evaluation for a concussion,” she said.

    The researchers say while the test provides a quick and accurate assessment, it should still be used with more in-depth analysis if injury is suspected.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.