Concussion is a major problem in high-contact sports such as football and rugby. What makes it even more serious is that the balance test is mainly used as a detection method, which relies on the ability of athletic trainers to determine whether a team member has suffered a concussion.
This visual assessment is highly subjective and inaccuracies mean that concussed athletes are often sent back on to the field, thus heightening the risk of a repeat injury. In a bid to remove the subjective element and eliminate inaccuracies, a research team from the San Diego State University (SDSU) is working on a testing tool that will provide an accurate, affordable alternative for professional and amateur teams.
Led by SDSU exercise and nutritional sciences professor Daniel Goble, the researchers are testing a new system called BTrackS. It combines a low-cost balance board with custom software and can deliver 99% accuracy in measuring balance. Goble is about to publish the findings of a study that compared the results of balance scoring using the current method with BTrackS data. The latter was found to deliver far more accurate readings than even the most experienced trainers.
The latest prototype is being put to the test with the SDSU rugby team. Football and rugby sports have the highest concussion rate, which explains why Goble and his colleagues plan to test the system this autumn with SDSU´s male football team. They will also carry out a trial with the female water polo team. According to Goble, BTrackS could prove helpful in identifying other neurological conditions where balance deficits are observed, for example Parkinson´s disease, stroke and multiple sclerosis.