A New Way to Diagnose Concussions on the Sideline?

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The average high-school football player gets hit on the helmet up to 1,400 times in a season.  High-school athletes sustain about 136,000 concussions per year — and those are only those that are diagnosed.  But diagnosing concussions on the playing field is not easy, especially since studies have shown that 50 percent of student-athletes will lie about symptoms to stay in a game.

So writes Stephen Fried C’79 in the current issue of Philadelphia Magazine, in a story about two Penn neuro-opthalmologists and alumni who are studying, with some early promise, the effectiveness of an obscure eye-movement test in determining–on the sideline–whether a player has sustained a concussion, even one that doesn’t generate the ordinary symptoms. As the tragic case of Penn’s Owen Thomas W’11 attests, “any incremental improvement in understanding, treating or diagnosing concussions,” Fried writes, is “a big deal.”

The advantage of the test being studied by Steven Galetta C’79 GM’87 (who played football at Penn) and Laura Balcer INT’92 GM’00 is that it could hardly be easier to give.  “A team mascot could administer it,” Fried quips.  Penn’s football team has signed on — along with the Philadelphia Flyers and a local high school — to be part of a wider study this fall.

The story is well worth a look.  (So, if you missed it, is Alan Schwarz C’90’s Pulitzer-nominated investigative reporting for the New York Times on the perils of concussions in football.)

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