A hockey puck and a stick: Low-tech concussion tests

WASHINGTON – In a world of high-tech medicine, researchers have come up with a novel, low-tech way to figure out if an athlete has a sports-related concussion.

A research team at the University of Michigan says all that is needed is a hockey puck attached to a wooden dowel marked like a ruler.

The idea is to drop the puck, so to speak, in front of an athlete and see where he or she catches the falling stick. That measurement is an indication of reaction time — a key sign of a concussion.

In a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the researchers say this simple $5 device may be a good tool for sports medicine providers who want to assess an injury quickly and easily.

Dr. Shital Pavawalla, Neuropsychologist and Clinical Director of the Concussion Assessment & Management Program at Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital of Maryland, says it’s an interesting idea.

She says reaction times tend to slip after a concussion and notes “It’s one factor in a variety of factors that can suggest a concussion injury.”

Pavawalla says the device may prove to be a good screening tool on the way to a full diagnosis.

“We know that the best method of assessing concussion injuries is to take a comprehensive approach,” she says, adding that means “utilizing screening tools that really look at a variety of factors rather than just one domain.”

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