Your phone could help diagnose a concussion

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by JEAN ENERSEN / KING 5 News

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KING5.com

Posted on September 1, 2011 at 4:42 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

With the high school football season kicking off, your smart phone could soon offer the best protection for a child with a concussion.

The phone app was developed at Wichita State University and can detect the signs of a brain injury.
 
With a blow to the head, a concussion is easy to spot, especially if the player is knocked out.  But many times the symptoms are vague.
 
"I was really, and I was light-headed, and I was real sluggish for the most part," said Grant Guest, who suffered a minor concussion. "Yeah, it was pretty bad."
 
"It's estimated that 80 to 85 percent of concussions go undiagnosed," Dr. Jeremy Patterson with Wichita State University said.
 
One way to test for a concussion is to measure a person's balance, but a machine like this costs about $15,000.
 
"Not every facility has the funding of the NFL so local high schools can't really afford to have this balance piece of equipment," Dr. Patterson said.
 
That's why Dr. Patterson and a former student are taking the science to the sidelines, with a phone app to measure balance.
 
"It's a quick three-minute test. The balance is using the accelerometer in the phone. They hold it against their chest, stand on one foot, and we're measuring the sway of their upper body," Dr. Patterson said.
 
It also tests a player's balance while walking heel to toe.  Comparing these scores to how the athlete normally performs the test.
 
"Now we have something definitive that we can go to the coach say, 'hey, this young man is showing signs of a concussion. He's out for the night,' instead of just saying, 'let's put him back in and see how he does,'" athletic trainer Brian Coley said. 
 
The phone app also features memory tests.  The player tries to remember words from a list and repeat a sequence of lights.
 
"And then the reaction time is a simple test with a touch screen on the phone, how quickly you respond," Dr. Patterson said.
 
Once the software is on the market, Dr. Patterson sees applications beyond football.  Many sports like soccer, hockey and even volleyball are at risk for concussions.
 
The app is called "concussion manager."  Once it's on the market, sports teams will be able to subscribe for $25 a player.  Then they'll be able to test throughout the season for any changes in brain function.

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