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Study: Vision Test Effective Tool in Concussion Diagnosis

Football programs investing in on-field resources to help detect player concussions may need to look no further than a set of numbered cards. A review led by concussion specialists at New York University Langone Medical Center have found that the King-Devick test to be 86 percent accurate in detecting concussions among youth, college and professional athletes.

Moreover, when combined with other sideline-assessment techniques, such as balance and cognition tests, researchers found 100 percent of concussions among those involved in the studies were detected.

"There is no diagnostic substitute for a medical professional when it comes to evaluating an athlete for concussion, but physicians are not always on the sidelines during practice or a game when an injury might occur," says senior study author Laura Balcer, co-director of the NYU Langone Concussion Center. "Our study shows that an easy to administer vision test is a simple, effective tool that empowers parents, coaches, trainers - and even physicians - on the sidelines to have a protocol for deciding if an athlete should be removed from play."

The study, published this week in Concussion, examined the outcomes of 15 previously completed studies involving the King-Devick test and included 1,419 athletes playing hockey, football, lacrosse, soccer, basketball, boxing and rugby, 112 of whom were eventually diagnosed with a concussion. The King-Devick test successfully detected 96 of the 112 concussions.

As part of the test, an athlete is asked to read numbers as quickly as they are able off a series of cards while being timed. A baseline for each athlete is established before the season begins; a concussed athlete will experience slower response times when tested later —an average of 4.8 seconds longer, the study found. Non-concussed athletes in the study improved their time by an average of 1.9 seconds.

The review included studies involving other tests, such as SCAT3 symptom checklist, a walking test. All concussed athletes involved in the metastudy demonstrated worsening scores in at least one of the three tests.

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