Sideline Test Accurately Detects Athletes’ Concussions in Minutes, Penn Study Shows

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Media Contact:Kim Menard | Kim.menard@uphs.upenn.edu | (215) 662-6183February 2, 2011

PHILADELPHIA – A simple test performed at the sideline of sporting events can accurately detect concussions in athletes, according to study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Current sideline tests can leave a wide amount a brain function untested following concussion. Penn researchers showed that this method adds to current methods and accurately and reliably identified athletes with head trauma. The study appears online now in Neurology.

The one-minute test involves the athlete reading single digit numbers displayed on index-sized cards. Any increase (worsening) in the time needed to complete the test suggests a concussion has occurred, particularly if the delay is greater than five seconds compared to the individual’s baseline test time.

The test, called the King-Devick test, captures impairments of eye movement, attention, language and other symptoms of impaired brain function. It looks at saccadic and other types of eye movements that are frequently abnormal following a concussion.

“This rapid screening test provides an effective way to detect early signs of concussion, which can improve outcomes and hopefully prevent repetitive concussions,” said the study’s senior author, Laura Balcer, MD, MSCE, Professor of Neurology, Ophthalmology and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “If validated in future studies, this test has the potential to become a standard sideline test for athletes.” 

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