Even if you’re not much of a sports fan, you’ve probably heard that concussions are a big problem in organized sports. The numbers show that this concern over traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) is quite warranted; in the United States each year, it is believed that between 1.6 to 3.8 million TBIs are sustained during sports and recreational activities. Of course, concussions fit all the criteria to be considered a TBI.
Though they are common issue, accurately diagnosing concussions still remains a challenge for doctors. They do not always show up on CT scans, and MRIs likewise have a spotty record when it comes to concussions. Fortunately, a team of researchers believe they have developed a viable alternative, one that relies on eye movements to make its judgments.
Tracking the Motions of the Eyes
The research team tested their new method on a total of 139 subjects; of this sample, 75 had previously sought emergency medical treatment due to head injuries. What the participants were asked to do might sound both a bit unorthodox, and also fairly amusing; for 200 seconds, they were required to watch various music videos on a monitor.
The videos only took up a small portion of screen space. Furthemore, they didn’t remain anchored to the center of the screen, but instead slowly moved in a clockwise pattern around the screen’s periphery. As the subjects stared at the monitor, the authors recorded the movements of their eyes.
Prior to the study, there had been evidence that concussions can alter the ways in which eyes move. Specifically, one eye might push itself too far in a particular direction. Conversely, the opposite reaction may occur, with one of the victim’s eyes failing to reach its intended destination. The researchers’ hypothesis turned out to be right; concussion symptoms were more pronounced among subjects who struggled to visually focus on the videos.
A Practical Option?
Appearing in the April 7, 2015 issue of the Journal of Neurotrauma, the authors contend that the study demonstrates the practicality of their new concussion test. “It’s easy and quick. It takes fewer than 220 seconds; it’s non-invasive, and it gives a clear answer,” stated Uzma Samadani, one of the report’s twenty-one contributors. The team believes that the eye-monitoring technology could eventually be used during sporting events, allowing for quick concussion diagnoses from the sidelines.