High School Science Fair Project Yields Method of Identifying Concussions Quickly

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↵While medical staff on hand at sporting events are certainly sophisticated enough to be able to identify whether an athlete has suffered a concussion, the process to make that determination could stand to be expedited. One possible test being considered has come from an unlikely source: a high school student's science fair project. ↵

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↵⇥Richardson's device looks like something out of a 19th-century medical text. It's a hockey puck, with a long rod embedded in the middle. The stick is marked off in centimeter increments. ↵⇥

↵⇥It works like this: Tester suspends the device while injured athlete sits with forearm on table, fingers loosely circling the stick. Without warning, tester drops stick. Athlete grabs stick as fast as possible. Place where athlete grabs gives an instant readout of reaction time. ↵⇥

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↵⇥It all happens in milliseconds—too fast to measure with a stopwatch. In a pilot study of the test, athletes with concussions had reaction times that were 15 percent slower. ↵⇥

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↵It's not every high school science project that gains even a measure of traction with the medical community. For the most part, that's because truly inspired projects are hard to come by. But also, what professional is actually willing to listen to a high school kid try to tell him how to do his or her job? For the sake of this experiment, it helps that Ian's father is on the faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School. That connection notwithstanding, the test has a ways to go before it's accepted by the larger medical community, or even considered fully valid as a dependable means of testing for concussions. ↵

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↵And even if the test granted legitimacy, professional neurologists say it would never become the standalone examination for finding a concussion. More likely, it could be an initial test conducted by medical staff at a sporting event that could help them assess whether or not a player is showing symptoms of a concussion, which would help them decide whether the athlete should be allowed to return to action. ↵

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↵(H/T to Sports Are 80 Percent Mental) ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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