New machine could help detect concussions - WSMV News 4

New machine could help detect concussions

Posted: Updated: Apr 12, 2016 10:51 PM

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 3.8 million concussions occur in the U.S. every year. Most of them are related to sports and recreational activities.

Concussions are the most common form of brain injury. Symptoms include headache, confusion, vision changes, slurred speech and memory loss.

Last week, new evidence from researcher in Canada suggests that those with head injuries were at least three times more likely to commit suicide than the average population.

With such serious long-term effects, doctors want a more accurate way to test for concussions before players are put back in a game after a serious blow.

The number of NFL player concussions was up 58 percent from 115 in 2014 to 182 in 2015, the highest since the league began tracking the data in 2012.

With movies like Concussion, there has also been an increased awareness of the concussion brain disease CTE. The list of former players who have died whose brains tested positive for CTE continues to grow.

Some doctors said there’s no reliable way to know who will get CTE.

“The honest truth is we don’t have a single tool to say that a particular athlete is either still suffering from a concussion or fully recovered,” said Dr. Mitul Kapadia with University of California, San Francisco Health.

A new machine being studied at Vanderbilt may change that.

“This is the first inter-cranial pressure monitor that exists in the world that doesn’t require lobotomy,” said Tim Lee, coordinator at the Vanderbilt Sports Concussion Center.

“We think this could be a game-changer, literally,” said Dr. Allen Sills, professor of neurosurgery at Vanderbilt.

The HS-1000 is a non-invasive, portable device using sound wave technology that doesn’t require any special training. It can potentially be hooked up to a tablet or phone and measure brain function in real-time, using two specific parameters.

“One is pressure in the brain. The other is blood flow in the brain,” Sills said. “We think those are parameters that might be disrupted right after a concussion occurs. Obviously we don’t know that for sure, that’s what we’re studying.”

“If you got a concussion, hook them up on the sideline and give you a readout saying you’ve got a concussion or not,” Lee said.

Sills and his team at the Vanderbilt Sports Concussion Center are using the device to study 50 healthy patients who have never had a concussion and 50 concussed patients, mostly student-athletes. They are tested between 48 and 72 hours after injury.

Patients listen to a 10-decibel tone for 15 minutes.

“You put earpieces in. One is a microphone, one is a receiver. The sound wave travels across the brain and it measure resistance,” Lee said.

The earpieces are connected to an Android-based tablet programmed with software and algorithms.

“Currently, we have to rely on the athlete’s own report of their symptoms, what they’re feeling,” Sills said. “Sometimes athletes won’t express that or don’t want to tell us the truth because they don’t want to come out of the game.”

Sills said his mission is to train coaches, teachers, nurses and patients to diagnoses concussions wherever they are. He also urged everyone to balance fear with facts.

“To date, we don’t have any evidence from a scientific basis that having one, two or three concussions will create long-term brain damage,” Sills said. “We know the vast majority who suffer concussions that once they’re diagnosed and treated, they can safely return to play, to school.”

If proven effective, the HS-1000 could get FDA approval and be in use as early as 2017.

The Vanderbilt concussion study is still seeking patients. To learn more about participating, call 615-875-8722 or email

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