HEADLINES Published March12, 2015 By Bernadette Strong

Flash Cards May Help Test for Concussions

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Kids playing sports like lacrosse can hit their heads often. A vision test may be a simple way to screen for concussions.
(Photo : Streeter Lecka, Getty Images)

Kids who play sports or just play hard can hit their heads and it can be difficult to determine if it is just a bump or if a concussion has occurred. But adding a simple and inexpensive vision test that uses flash cards to the currently used tests might help parents and coaches quickly check a kid for a concussion.

The most commonly recommended tests for concussion in use on the game sideline involve asking the athlete to say what day it is, memorize and recall a list of words, and perform a test of coordination. In college and professional sports, these tests are usually done by a physician but physicians are usually not present at high school or youth league sports.

A study published in the Journal of Neuro-Ophthalmology has found that a vision test can help diagnose a concussion. It is the King-Devick test, which consists of three cards with lines of numbers spaced out on them. It is considered to be a reliable indicator of cognitive problems. At the beginning of the study, hockey and lacrosse players at two colleges and younger hockey and lacrosse players were given as assessment using the current standard assessment of concussion, a coordination test where they walked along a 10-foot strip of tape, and the King-Devick test.

During the season, 12 athletes hit their heads. They were retested on the sidelines, along with 14 athletes who had not been injured who served as controls. All 12 who hit their heads were later confirmed to have a concussion by a neurologist. However, on the sidelines, the standard test identified only two injured athletes as having a concussion. It identified three uninjured athletes as having a concussion. The King-Devick test was correct 75% of the time for injured athletes and only found one false positive in the uninjured athletes. The walking test was also relatively accurate.

Further research needs to be done to determine whether the King-Devick test can replace the current sideline tests for a concussion, but the study recommends that parents and coaches add it to the standard test.

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