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UF Study Finds New Way to Detect Athlete Concussions Earlier

A new study at UF looks to keep athletes in contact sports safer. GTN's Mayci McLeod has the story. Robert Cox, Director of Camp Blue Wave, says, "My son had a concussion in lacrosse season this year and so it was almost a full month of tests and everything he had to go through before he could go back to action."Concussions affect athletes of all ages and the symptoms can be subtle and difficult to diagnose. But, that head injury can have serious long term affects. Researchers at the University of Florida have developed a way to detect concussions much faster-- before the player even leaves the field. Every college athlete is required to take a series of baseline tests to show their mental abilities when they are healthy. Dr. Jay Clugston, UF Team Physician, says, "Our first tests we do are centered on cognition-- such as memory and attention, and we do a balance test."But he says there is a need for a test that is easier to take and focuses on a different type of brain function. During a UF study, the King-Devick vision test was added to the baseline tests for athletes in football, lacrosse, and soccer. Dr. Clugston says, "They look at a screen on an iPad and there's numbers on the screen, and the athlete reads them from left to right, top to bottom, then they have two more screens that are a little bit harder with different spacing, at at the end of those three screens they get a total time. So it's really easy to do and it's one number that doesn't require a lot of interpretation. You just compare it to what their baseline score was and if they're slower or worse, then you suspect an injury may be there and they may have a concussion." He says when combined with the other tests, the series is 100% accurate in recognizing concussions. Dr. Clugston says the sooner a concussion is diagnosed, the better.

Dr. Clugston says, "If they're concussed and they're playing and they get hit again, they're at risk of having worse symptoms, taking a lot longer to recover so they miss more practices and games."

He says further brain damage could cause more permanent problems and, in some cases, death. Dr. Clugston says he hopes the results of the study will lead to more schools and athletic programs adding vision tests to their concussion protocol.

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