14NEWS Special Report: To Catch a Concussion

14NEWS Special Report: To Catch a Concussion

EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - When you think of a "contact sport" it is probably football that comes to mind, but don't think for a second that concussions don't also happen in sports like soccer, hockey or basketball.

"Used to be, athletes were encouraged to 'get back out there, shake it off,' after they go their bell run so to speak. But now we know better," says Dr. Andrew Saltzman, University of Evansville's Orthopedic team physician.

The tricky part is that a concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury, but you won't find any radiological evidence. Instead clinicians rely on seeing symptoms in an athlete, like confusion or dizziness, to diagnose a concussion.

However, a team of researchers from IU Bloomington are working on a new tool that would stop the guesswork and diagnose concussions, right on the sidelines.

They've developed an eye-tracking system about the size of a shoe-box, paired with a balance platform based on Nintendo's Wii gaming system.

It's a portable tool that quantitatively measures how an athlete tracks a moving dot. At the same time, researchers are measuring balance.

An athlete with a concussion won't be able to match their pre-season score on the same test. That's big, creators say, because it's one of the first tools to predict, objectively, who will go on to be diagnosed with a concussion after a clinical interview.

And it can detect a concussion, often before the athlete's other symptoms even develop.

"If we can bring a young athlete off the sideline and put them through testing and that testing lets us know for sure this kid is concussed, that takes pressure off the sports medicine people and it really takes pressure off the student athlete because they all want to play," said IU School of Optometry's Dr. Nicholas Port.

The researchers will register their work as a clinical trial with the federal government next. And they've already filed patent on their sideline tool.

As for athletes, baseline exams are still an essential part of helping diagnose concussions. Saint Mary's just announced spring dates for baseline exams.

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