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Quick Test May Help Spot Concussions on Sidelines

Combined with two other simple screenings, all cases of head injury were caught, researchers report

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Over one season, 30 athletes were diagnosed with a concussion. And when the researchers looked at their sideline test results, 79 percent showed slower times on the K-D, compared with their pre-season performance. Adding the SAC and BESS results improved the detection rate to 100 percent.

Part of the appeal of the K-D is its simplicity; it can be used by "laypeople," including coaches and parents, Galleta noted. That raises the question of whether it can be used in high school and youth sports -- where there is often no athletic trainer or other health professional on the sidelines.

Studies are currently testing the K-D's usefulness for kids as young as 6, said Dr. Laura Balcer, a professor of neurology at NYU Langone who also worked on the study.

But regardless of what the K-D or other screening test shows on the sidelines, Balcer said there is "no substitute" for parents' judgment. If they notice any potential signs of concussion after a game or practice, they should take their child to the doctor immediately, she said.

"Parents know their kids best," Broglio agreed. "If you notice a change in their behavior, it's probably worth it to have them evaluated."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 173,000 U.S. children and teens land in the ER each year because of a concussion suffered during sports or recreational activities, like bike riding.

But the overall number -- including kids not seen in the ER -- is probably much larger: the CDC estimates that across age groups, up to 3.8 million Americans sustain a sports-related concussion each year.

In general, experts say kids with concussions should be symptom-free and get a doctor's OK before returning to sports. The biggest concern is that, if they sustain another knock to the head while they are still recovering from the first concussion, they could suffer so-called second-impact syndrome -- which can cause potentially fatal bleeding inside the skull and brain swelling.

The data and conclusions of research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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