The latest advancements in technology have opened another door for advancements in concussion diagnostics, as well. Researchers at the University of Notre Dame have developed a software program that can turn a tablet or smartphone into an on-the-spot concussion diagnostic tool simply by analyzing the speech patterns of the person suspected of having a concussion.
"This project is a great example of how mobile computing and sensing technologies can transform healthcare," says Christian Poellabauer, an associate professor of computer science and engineering who was part of the team that developed the software. "More important, because almost 90 percent of concussions go unrecognized, this technology offers tremendous potential to reduce the impact of concussive and sub-concussive hits to the head."

The program still requires baseline testing, though less rigorous and involved than testing that uses MRI or CT scan imaging. Athletes record a voice sample before a game using a smartphone or tablet equipped with the software program. Should a brain injury be suspected, the player is asked to repeat a selection of words that the software analyzes for signs of brain trauma, which could include distorted vowels, hyper nasality or imprecise consonants.

The testing method offers some significant advantages over other existing methods, according to the research team: the equipment required is inexpensive and easily portable, and athletes seeking to return to play despite potential injury cannot fake the test.

Emily Attwood is Managing Editor of Athletic Business.