In late October, Baylor Bramble was life-flighted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center after sustaining a head injury during a high school football game. On November 16, after being in critical condition for nearly three weeks while efforts were being made to relieve the pressure on his brain, doctors were finally able to begin trying to wean him off the ventilator for an hour or two at a time. Though there is a very long road ahead, Baylor’s condition is hopeful. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Bramble family. There is still hope that Baylor will make a full recovery from his injuries.
This unfortunate accident highlights a serious issue for athletes; the state of diagnostic technology in the field is seriously outdated. Faster diagnosis always means faster treatment, and faster treatment can be the difference between life and death when it comes to the brain.
The current state of technology
Concussions are a common injury on the field. America’s top four sports all involve some combination of high-speed and high-impact collisions, whether with another player or a projectile. However, the standard field diagnostic for concussions is extremely subjective; it involves a trainer watching for slight eye movements, asking questions and observing balance. The field test for this brain injury isn’t exactly high-tech.
Emerging technology could change the way that head injuries are handled on the field. The key to the new technology is something called a “saccade.” Saccades are rapid movements of the eyes between fixed points. When brain injury is present, the movement becomes disrupted, or disconjugates. Disconjugate eye movement is a well-known symptom of concussion, but until now it has been difficult to diagnose objectively.
Hope is on the horizon
A study by researchers at New York University’s Langone Medical Center has found a new eye tracking technique that could set the gold standard for brain injury analysis as soon as the event occurs. The research team used high-accuracy tracking cameras to follow eye movements of people watching a music video. They tested the device on 139 trauma patients at Bellevue Hospital. According to NYU, “Among all trauma patients, the severity of the concussive symptoms correlated with