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Concussion-Measuring Device Developed At SDSU Hits Market

Credit: flickrfanmk2007 via Compfight

Trainers who suspect an athlete has suffered a concussion put them through a variety of tests, including ones to test whether their balance has been affected. But these tests are highly subjective.

Aired 8/19/14 on KPBS News.

A device developed at San Diego State that helps trainers figure out if an athlete has suffered a concussion is now on the market.

The device, called BtrackS, measures an athlete’s ability to maintain good balance.

It looks like a scale you might find in your bathroom. When someone stands on it, it provides an accurate measure of the body’s sway. The information is transmitted to a laptop or tablet computer.

Trainers who suspect an athlete has suffered a concussion usually will give them a balance test. It includes walking in a straight line and standing on one leg.

But Dann Goble, SDSU assistant professor of exercise and nutritional sciences, said unlike his BtrackS device, the standard balance tests are not precise.

“So what you end up getting is different trainers who are watching the same person do the test will come up with a different number," Goble explained. "It’s just because there’s so much subjective judgment in that test.”

Balance is just one factor that trainers are concerned about in an athlete who they suspect has suffered a concussion. The others are memory loss and other cognitive problems, and physiological symptoms like headaches and wooziness.

Doctors say proper assessment on the sidelines is critical. If a person who's suffered a concussion goes back into play too soon, they could suffer a secondary concussion which could cause irreparable brain damage.

Goble’s device costs significantly less than others on the market. He hopes the relatively low price will be affordable for high school and youth sports teams.

Nationwide, athletes suffer more than 300,000 sports-related concussions every year.

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