Concussion Study On NAU Athletes Show Promising Results For Early Detection

Published: Monday, April 10, 2017 - 10:46am

Soon, every high school will have its own medical trainer on the football field sidelines, ready to diagnose concussions in critical seconds.  

Dr. Javier Cardenas with Barrow Neurological Institute predicted the need several years ago. This month, his friend and former Mayo Clinic sports neurologist, Dr. Bert Vargas unveiled findings from a two year study on Northern Arizona University football players.

With a V-Go Robot as their eyes and ears, a remote physicians’ team monitored every hit on the grid iron while sitting in labs 500 miles away at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

They followed 50 players to see how accurately a sideline tech and the remote physician could agree on diagnosing a concussion.

Each time a player was clocked by another, “The remote physician made a recommendation whether or not the athlete needs to come out as well as the sideline provider,” said Cardenas.

What’s important, he noted is, “neither knew each other’s recommendation and they found there was a 100% agreement between those decisions.”

The team went on to publish its evaluations in the medical online magazine "Neurology."

“This feasibility study suggests that teleconcussion evaluations are safe and effective for providing accurate and rapid assessments of athletes," stated in the publication.

Their work bolsters Cardenas’ argument to use remote technology. But, it does not solve the impossible hurdle of supplying every Arizona high school with the nearly $7,000 robots.

For that, Cardenas’ team has found an end run by developing concussion software for smart phones.

“It has the greatest reach and reduces the cost tremendously,” he compared the hand-held system to the bulky robot.  

In Arizona, and in every U.S. state, a concussion law requires any athlete suspected of a concussion be removed from play and not return to the game that same day.

Cardenas thinks smart phone technology’s availability and real time results will soon help coaches make that critically important decision faster and more accurately.

“Because if athletes go back and sustain another head injury, they could have bleeding, swelling of the brain and rarely death or severe disability," Cardenas explained.
 
In 2015, Barrow Neurological Institute reported one in three Arizona high school senior athletes reported having a concussion.

Cardenas said Vargas’ NAU study is not conclusive, but indicated researchers are on the right track toward reducing those long term concussion injuries.

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