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Published on September 02, 2015

Concussion Researchers Consider Initial Results of Monitors Worn by College Athletes

Concussion Researchers Consider Initial Results of Monitors Worn by College Athletes

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Last fall, as concerns about concussions in contact sports amped up for professionals and younger athletes, Cottage Health researchers helped introduce a new monitor that can measure the force of a blow to a player’s head while also recording an individualized “hit count.”

Cottage Health’s research project involves the men’s and women’s soccer teams and the football team at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC). It continues this year, with researchers fine-tuning their approach and preparing to present an early analysis of data collected last year from the Triax Smart Impact Monitor (SIM) meters.

The miniature devices slide into the back of a headband and record linear and rotational g-force of all impacts to the student athlete’s head, and automatically upload the data to a web-based platform. Trainers, coaches and physicians receive “dashboards" of all data and real-time alerts when athletes experience hits beyond a set threshold.

In addition to real-time intervention for players on the field, the project also provides data for researchers to examine. For 2014-15, they focused on data from the football players, looking for a correlation between big hits, as recorded by the SIM meters, and diminished cognitive abilities, as measured by the already established ImPACT test for concussion management.

As it turns out, players who declined the most in cognitive abilities from the start of the season to the end were not the ones researchers would have expected.

“The ways that you experience these injuries are vague and variable,” Dr. Kaminski says. “If we could find either a cumulative amount of force or a threshold force that you experience and should perhaps not play the sport or be taken out for a period of time, that might automate the safety aspect of concussion evaluation and remove some of the subjectivity.”

“But we didn’t see the ability to do that.”

The team will present their initial findings in November at an annual meeting of the Pediatric Trauma Society. While Dr. Kaminski says the study will be continued and should be followed up on a larger scale, he suspects some people are actually more “hard-headed.”

“Johnny may get hit in a limited fashion and really develop severe symptoms, where Jack right next to him, he may get hit him 10 times in a row, and he experiences nothing.”

That doesn’t mean SIM meters can’t provide useful information or help in flagging players who experience hard hits, but the measure of force may not be a panacea in pinpointing potential concussions, Dr. Kaminski says. And players, trainers and coaches shouldn’t disregard concussion symptoms because a player’s meter did not register a high-impact hit.

Any athlete who experiences symptoms, either during a game or later on, should consult immediately with a trainer or coach. In cases with severe or persistent symptoms, more advanced medical treatment may be needed to heal the brain and protect it from further injury. “You’re not playing the game of your life,” Dr. Kaminski warns. “You’re playing the game of life.”

Concussion Symptoms

  • Thinking/remembering: Difficulty thinking clearly, concentrating or remembering new information. Feeling slowed down.
  • Physical: Headache. Fuzzy or blurry vision. Nausea or vomiting (early on). Dizziness. Sensitivity to noise or light. Balance problems. Feeling tired.
  • Emotional: Irritability. Sadness. Nervousness or anxiety.
  • Sleep: More or less sleep than usual. Trouble falling asleep.

(Source: Centers for Disease Control)

This article was originally distributed through the Health E-Living Newsletter. To subscribe, follow this link and fill out the short form to receive the bi-weekly Cottage Health E-Living Newsletter.

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