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YOUR HEALTH: Checking for concussions on the spot

TOWSON, Maryland – Football is a tough sport. a hard strike to the head is not uncommon.

21-year old Towson University linebacker Zane Ventimiglia suffered not one, but two concussions last season.   He didn't see either hit coming, but felt them after.

"I remember being pretty off-kilter, not able to balance well."

Towson University Associate Athletic Director Nathan Wilder says right after an injury, trainers have to rely partly on subjective tests, like how an athlete looks or says he feels.

"These kids are pretty resilient," he said.  "They'll take a hit, come off and say they're OK. Then a couple of minutes later, they're not."

There are as many as three million sports-related concussions every year.  As many as 300,000 of those injured are football players.

Now there's a new portable device designed to give an objective assessment.

The BrainScope measures brain waves.

"When somebody hits the head, it changes the brain electrical activity pattern," says Leslie Prichep, the chief science officer for Maryland-based BrainScope.

It's designed so a trainer can easily use it,

There's a disposable headset with sensors that attach to the injured athlete`s forehead.

A smartphone with specialized software picks up the readings.

"Using the sophisticated algorithms that the BrainScope One implements, it looks for that set of changes that are distinctive of a traumatic brain injury," explained Prichep.

The readings can help trainers decide whether the athlete needs more advanced medical screening.

A real-time scan for brain injury, without hours of delay.

DIAGNOSING:  Diagnosing a concussion can be difficult sometimes, because there is no gold standard for concussion.  Doctors say it's very much based on the presence or absence of symptoms.
Doctors may perform a neurological examination where they check a patient`s vision, hearing, strength and sensation, balance, coordination, and reflexes.   A cranial computerized tomography (CT) scan is the standard test to assess the brain right after injury.  Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used to identify changes in the brain or to diagnose complications that may occur after a concussion, but there is a need for more accessible diagnosing tools, which is where BrainScope comes in.  (Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/concussion/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355600)

The FDA has approved the BrainScope device and it's funded by the NFL and Defense Department.

The BrainScope is already being used by some athletic department personnel like those at Towson University near Baltimore.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at
mthomas@ivanhoe.com.