A new cost-effective balance tracking device that measures the concussion level, enabling double the accuracy over the existing method, has been developed by researchers at San Diego State University.
The current instrument which is used extensively for detecting and evaluating concussions in athletes is BESS (Balance Error Scoring System).
BESS test is highly unreliable and provides a dismal 30 percent accuracy in detecting a concussion. Quite often, different people evaluating the same athlete using BESS would end up with different results.
Alternately, there is a computerized balanced testing used by laboratories and hospitals, where the balance can be measured accurately using force plates that tracks how much a person sways. However, those machines are large and very expensive, making them impractical for any athletic unit.
BTrackS, invented by Dann Goble and manufactured by Balance Tracking Systems, can perform concussion balance testing inexpensively, using similar force plates with high standards of accuracy, within a span of just two minutes.
It is a portable balance board about the size of a suitcase that can connect to the computer or laptop and costs less than $1,000. Also, the accuracy levels presented by BTrackS is double that of the BESS.
To test BTrackS technology's accuracy in a real world scenario, Goble and his team took baseline balance measurements of 519 athletes playing hardcore sports with relatively high risks of concussion, such as soccer, rugby, basketball, water polo and American football. A baseline data was established at the start of the season and in the event of a concussion, it was compared to a post-injury balance test.
In the event of any head injury taking place, the player's balance was measured using BTrackS and it was compared to the baseline score. Out of the 25 players declared to have suffered a concussion by the team doctor, 16 were effectively detected by BTrackS, distinguishing Goble's technology with a 64 percent success rate — twice more than that of BESS.
One of the major symptoms of a recent concussion is impaired balance. Most sports administrators recommend three testing components for concussion protocol: physical symptomatic, neuro-cognitive and balance.
According to Goble, the idea is to create an environment where every athlete receives an accurate baseline balance test as the long term effects of concussion on an athlete can be quite complicated. This enables parents, coaches and trainers to make an informed decision.
The study has been published [pdf] in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy.