Virtual reality being used to assess concussions in football

Football is no stranger to controversy when it comes to how the sport handles concussions and brain injuries, but one university is harnessing the power of technology to address the process.

Iowa State University (ISU) has announced that it will be using neuro-technology company SyncThink’s EYE-SYNC device as part of its sidelines concussion assessment protocol in its football and wrestling programs this season.

EYE-SYNC is a virtual reality (VR) headset that can measure and assess abnormal eye movement and vestibular (inner ear) imbalances, which are common symptoms of concussions. Through tracking the eyes of a player, the FDA-approved device can objectively determine impairment and alert team doctors, coaches, and players in just one minute.

SyncThink’s EYE-SYNC solution.

Not only is it cloud-based, but it also features an analytics platform to make results easier to understand, manage, and share.

“We chose to incorporate EYE-SYNC into our concussion identification and management plan combining it with our existing technology to provide us with quick, objective data assessing potential ocular-motor dysfunction as the initial part of our evaluation process,” Mark Coberley, ISU’s director of sports medicine and associate athletic director, says in a Aug. 14 statement. “Utilizing EYE-SYNC with our other technologies is allowing us to more easily identify possible concussions, determine appropriate return to play decisions, and as importantly, target and evaluate identified areas of dysfunction that can be addressed more effectively during the recovery process.”

With collision sports like football increasingly being linked to traumatic brain injuries like chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative neural disease found in people who have suffered repeated blows to the head, ISU is hoping EYE-SYNC will increase player safety and reduce the concussion risks within these two high impact sports.

ISU will be joining Stanford University, who has been using EYE-SYNC technology to detect and monitor concussions for the last two seasons.

SyncThink says its device “is the first reliable tool to identify functional impairments in real time, enabling immediate remove-from-play decisions to be made.”

EYE-SYNC technology “allows for the migration and pushing of data across all platforms so that medical professionals can share secure information throughout the organization. Additionally, the platform provides several customizable options that can be integrated into pre-existing electronic medical records (EMR) and scaled accordingly,” the company adds.

Post-injury, it can also be used to monitor the progress of concussed players to ensure recovery, predict return to play, and confirm that the impairment has been resolved.

“The EYE-SYNC technology works as a method of surveillance, assessment, and recovery to reduce the risk of injury for those in all walks of life,” explains Dr. Jamshid Ghajar, Stanford University clinical professor of neurosurgery, chief scientific adviser, and founder of SyncThink, in a June 27 press release announcing the latest generation of EYE-SYNC. “There is no way to cheat this technology to convince medical professionals that you aren’t injured when you are, and that’s a giant step to making athletes safer. We have to be able to access objective information to make clinical decisions regarding brain health and this next generation of EYE-SYNC delivers just that.”

For more concussion technology news, our third stringers discuss it in the latest episode of the Tech in Sports podcast.

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Mandy Kovacs
Mandy Kovacs
Mandy is a lineup editor at CTV News. A former staffer at IT World Canada, she's now contributing as a part-time podcast host on Hashtag Trending. She is a Carleton University journalism graduate with extensive experience in the B2B market. When not writing about tech, you can find her active on Twitter following political news and sports, and preparing for her future as a cat lady.

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