Two researchers at Indiana University are developing a portable tool that could diagnose concussions on the sidelines at sporting events. Nicholas Port and Steven Hitzeman from the IU School of Optometry have recently expanded their research to area high schools and youth sports clubs.
Port has devised a system that uses eye-tracking goggles in a shoebox-sized device and a balance platform based on technology from the Nintendo Wii video game system. The system can be used after a high-impact blow and the tester can compare the results with the athlete’s baseline numbers to determine if the athlete has suffered a concussion and should be taken out of competition.
The researchers say there isn’t enough information yet to produce statistically valid conclusions. However, data on more than 1,000 athletes has been collected so far, including 69 concussions. Port says, "some ocular and motor performance can be severely impaired during the acute phase of a concussion, which is the first 10 minutes to an hour after a concussion occurs. When possible, we like to test the affected athlete within 10 minutes of the event."
The duo received two-year grants in 2014 from the National Institutes of Health and the Indiana Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Fund to continue their work. They say the next steps include applying for new grants, updating the data-collection units and conducting clinical trials.
Port says they hope to commercialize a "cheap, easy-to-use and portable" tool for diagnosing concussions on the sidelines with the aid of the Indiana University Research and Technology Corp.