Quick Test May Help Spot Concussions on Sidelines
Combined with two other simple screenings, all cases of head injury were caught, researchers report
"Some athletes don't recognize the symptoms, and some try to hide them because they want to stay in the game," Galleta said.
A number of professional groups, such as the AAN and National Athletic Trainers' Association, say that athletes who've potentially suffered a concussion should be taken out of the game or practice immediately.
For the new study, Galleta and his colleagues followed 217 athletes at the University of Florida -- including male football players, and female lacrosse and soccer players.
At the start of the season, they all took the K-D, as well as two other sideline screening tests: the BESS, which measures balance; and the SAC, which measures abilities such as short-term memory (asking the athlete to memorize and recall five words) and "orientation" (asking the player to name the day, month and year).
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.