New portable machine does more effective concussion test

New York, April 3 (IANS) Researchers have developed a portable and affordable balance machine that is about twice as effective as the most widely used balance test for concussion.

When athletes gets their bell rung on the field or court, there is often tension between their desire to keep playing and a trainer’s responsibility to prevent them from further harming themselves.

The problem with standard on-field concussion protocols is that several of their components are subjective and prone to human error.

The new inexpensive, ultraportable balance board called BtrackS, developed by researchers at San Diego State University, provides fast, objective feedback on an athlete’s balance disruption following a suspected concussion, according to a study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy.

Impaired balance is one of the major symptoms of a recent concussion. Most governing bodies in sports recommend three testing components in a concussion protocol: physical symptoms, cognitive function and balance.

For the balance portion, most sports organisations use what is known as the BESS (Balance Error Scoring System) test.

“The problem with the BESS is that it’s really unreliable,” said Dann Goble, inventor of BTrackS and author on the study.

You can measure balance objectively using force plates that track precisely how much a person sways, but most of these devices are either very large, very expensive, or both, making them unlikely to gain traction in sports.

Goble has adapted this technology into a balance board about the size of a suitcase that plugs into a computer or laptop, all for under $1,000.

To test whether the technology could accurately detect concussions in a real-world environment, Goble and colleagues took baseline balance measurements from more than 500 student athletes.

Then they followed those athletes over the course of their season.

Of 25 athletes determined by a team physician to have received concussions, BTrackS detected 16 of them, giving Goble’s technology a success rate of 64 percent — more than twice that of the BESS test, the study said.

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