June 4, 2011

New Phone App Diagnoses Concussions

Your smartphone may be the tool to help determine if someone has a concussion after an injury.

The new app could help bridge the communication gap that so often exists between team doctors and the team athletic trainers, who are usually the first on the scene when players suffer concussion-like symptoms.

Concussion expert Jason Mihalik of the University of North Carolina's brain injury research center and head-trauma researchers Justin Smith of Psychological Assessment Resources Inc. and the Children's National Medical Center joined together to develop an application for mobile devices that helps to determine whether someone may be suffering from a concussion.

Justin Smith says that this is the first observer-based concussion app. It works by allowing users to answer a series of questions, in which the app determines the likelihood of a concussion; and then is able to email the information to a doctor. At the National Sports Concussion Cooperative's seminar Thursday, Jason Mihalik says that the app's question flow comes from materials provided by the Centers for Disease Control.

Bill Griffin of the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) says, "The documentation (of immediate symptoms) is very important, from, 'How did they get hurt?' to the mechanism of injury through those initial signs and symptoms, to 'How did they progress over time?'"

Griffin adds, "It's not only what happens at the time of the injury, but how things change."

NATA is a cooperative consisting of coaches, doctors, equipment manufacturers and parents. The group was formed in March to study concussions and brain trauma injuries in order to try to make sports safer, reports the AP.

"We're trying to do more. We think there is an opportunity to do more," says Art Chou, Rawlings' vice president of research and development.

"The caution that we have as manufacturers is, are we ready to draw definitive conclusions? ... There's a balance there, and I think it's up to the research community to determine whether it is ready for prime time or not, because the issue is going to be one of public perception.

"The issue is, have we confused the public? ... I would like to see more consensuses from the research community that supports that, because we need more data. We need to move the needle. ... The last thing we need, I think now, as a whole football community, is going back and forth and confusing the issue any more."

Executive director of the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment Mike Oliver expresses his organization's longstanding goal to come up with a safety standard for youth helmets.

He says that it is dangerous to rush into any conclusions without completing any scientific research.

"You want to have an answer. You want to have a solution to the problem," Oliver says.

"You want to be able to say ... 'We do have a solution to the problem and you can have a level of confidence (that) you will have a level of protection. ... But we can't do that until we have the science behind it."

And that is where the new app comes into play, allowing more data to be collected for research.


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