This time of year, players suit up in pads and helmets and take to the football field for a game of big hits. Collisions are part of the sport’s appeal, but everyone from youth leagues to the NFL has expressed concern about the long-term damage of concussions.
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Biomedical engineer Jay L. Alberts, PhD, has created a tool to measure symptoms and guide the sideline decisions of coaches, trainers and medical staff. Dr. Alberts developed a comprehensive tool that measures mental skills, motor skills, balance, and other factors related to concussions. If the symptoms of a concussion are lingering, athletic trainers and team physicians will know not to put players back in the game too quickly and can get players the help they need to recover.
Best of all, Dr. Alberts’ program runs on an iPad. There’s an app for that.
Accurate results at lower cost
When the idea for software to monitor concussions first came up, Dr. Alberts knew he would need a device that measures motion and acceleration. When the iPad came along, complete with the built-in ability to measure both, he found his answer.
Working with Richard Figler, MD, and Robert Gray, MS, ATC, from Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Sports Health, he performed a study to show that the app — called the Cleveland Clinic Concussion (C3) app — worked. It’s not available to the public, but the team is now testing it on 5,000 young athletes who play contact sports including football and men’s and women’s soccer. The researchers are working with certified athletic trainers at more than 50 high schools and colleges across Northeast Ohio.
“The accuracy of data that we’re getting is pretty much equivalent to what we could get if we were measuring postural stability using the gold standard clinical and research system — a system that can cost upwards of $100,000,” Dr. Alberts says.
The cost savings are obvious, but there is another plus: The results tie into electronic medical records, so doctors can access them anywhere. And coaches and others on the sidelines will be able to use them to make smart decisions for the safety of players.
Dr. Alberts sees future uses for the technology too — everything from clinical research on brain disorders to early detection of Parkinson’s disease.