An eye test for concussions might be helpful for student athletes playing contact sports who are known to be at risk for head trauma. Up to 3.9 million sports related mild traumatic brain injuries, or concussions, occur annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but researchers say that number is likely higher since the CDC only tracks emergency room visits. Experiencing a concussion in a game increases an athlete’s risk for sustaining a second condition in the same season by three times. Other complications include the dangerous second impact syndrome, or other short and long term side effects.
Research on Concussion and Eye Tests Research from the NYU Langone Concussion Center shows that a simple eye test, which can be administered in less than two minutes, can effectively diagnose a concussion and help determine whether a student athlete as young as 5 years old should return to a game. A study published in the Journal of Neuro-Ophthalmology, was conducted on 89 NCAA athletes and a younger group of 243 youth athletes under age 17, and shows how the eye test, known as the King-Devick test, could help minimize the problems that make the diagnosis of concussion difficult in student athletes involved in youth sports. The researchers report that the test can easily be administered on the sidelines by parents and non-health care professionals when athletic trainers and doctors are not available to monitor sidelines at youth sports games.
About the King-Devick Test As part of the King-Devick test, athletes read numbers off of three pieces of paper while being timed with a stopwatch. A worsened performance from a baseline reading suggests a concussion has occurred. Since concussions may cause devastating short and long term cognitive effects, tools like vision testing that can objectively diagnose a concussion are critical. Some sideline tests only measure cognition and balance, but visual testing is rarely performed, despite longstanding evidence that vision is commonly affected by concussion, according to a review article published in the Journal of Neuro-Ophthalmology. Previous research suggests about 50 percent of the brain’s pathways are tied to vision.
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