Stanford device tests for concussion

Tuesday, September 30, 2014
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Researchers at the Stanford Concussion Center believe they have a much more accurate way of diagnosing potential concussions.

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Almost any player in the game knows when they've taken a big hit. But spotting the effects of a concussion on the field, or even the sideline, can be a lot trickier. Now, Stanford researchers believe they have a much more accurate way of diagnosing potential concussions.

"The test itself takes 30 seconds," says Stanford researcher and neurosurgeon Jam Ghajar, MD, Ph.D.

Ghajar and his team have refined a portable device that measures cognitive focus, by tracking a player's eye motion. Once their face is placed in the housing, the player is asked to follow a dot as it rotates around a circle.

"It's really a test for attention focus. When a student takes, or an athlete takes a test, we can compare it to their baseline or to normal, and know if they're off," explains Ghajar.

The eye tracking technology was developed in part with a grant from the Department of Defense. The military's goal was detecting the effects of head injuries caused, not by contact sports, but battlefield explosions. Ghajar's team has already tested the device on soldiers, including units deployed in Afghanistan.

Now, his team is launching a new study of athletes in the Bay Area and local high schools. The results will be added to data collected from a total of 5,000 athletes at test sites across the country.

"Of those 5,000 athletes, about 5-10 percent will end up with a concussion. So we'll follow them afterwards and do eye tracking on them as well," says Ghajar.

The goal he says is an affordable and easily portable system that could help spot debilitating brain injuries from the battle field to the sidelines.

Ghajar's team is now working with Bay Area high schools interested in participating in the concussion research. For more information on participating in the study you can contact the Stanford Concussion Center at (650) 498-1482

Written and produced by Tim Didion