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Eye technology could help diagnose student-athlete concussions from the field

Properly diagnosing a concussion in student-athletes is difficult. There is a lack of objective tests for young adults. But there is hope with a new tool that change be a game changer.

Doctors are looking at how the use of pupillometers could help trainers diagnose concussions in young athletes from the field.

STUDY: Utility of Pupillary Light Reflex Metrics as a Physiologic Biomarker for Adolescent Sport-Related Concussion

“We would love to be there and just watch the athletic contest without having to go on the field or on the court at all to deal with anyone who is injured,” said Jason Craddock, the assistant professor and director of FGCU’s athletic training program.

But Craddock says it doesn’t always work out that way. That’s where he and his students come in. As trainers, their job at FGCU is to support student-athletes.

“The welfare of our student-athlete is on the foremost of our mind,” Craddock said.

When it comes to new ways to diagnose concussions from the sidelines, Craddock is interested.

“We have to rely on, as athlete trainers, the subjective feedback we get from our student-athletes,” Craddock said.

“Some kids may not want to tell you because they want to keep playing,” said Dr. Christina Master, a pediatric primary care sports medicine specialist with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “And then it turns out all of these symptoms are also very non-specific.”

Master is exploring the use of pupillometers and how they can give trainers and coaches data-driven information quickly from the field, rink or pool.

“I was really interested in something that would be usable, not just in the office, but potentially in the athletic training room or even on the sideline,” Master said.

Master says the device measures how the pupil responds to a flash of light, and the data allows her team to determine which students have concussions and which don’t.

Pupillometers are currently available for purchase, but Master says they cost around $10,000. There isn’t a program or algorithm that helps coaches and trainers easily interpret the data currently. While the device isn’t ready for game time yet, Master believes it will be effective in the future.

“There’s a chance there that we could really have an impact and improve outcomes and improve their quality of life after the concussion,’ Master said.

And others like what they hear is in the works.

“That’d be a tremendous asset having that on the sideline,” Craddock.

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Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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