Device That Measures Reaction Times Might Identify Concussion in Athletes

Article excerpt

An extremely simple device that tests an athlete's reaction time is showing promise in diagnosing concussions, according to a study announced in advance of its scheduled presentation at the meeting in Toronto.

Seven of eight Division I athletes who had suffered a concussion showed significantly slowed reaction times with the device, Dr. James T. Eckner said in an interview. "It's actually very similar to an experiment that's done commonly in physics classrooms in high schools," said Dr. Eckner, of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In that experiment, reaction times are judged by the speed with which people can catch a ruler dropped between their fingers.

The device "is a fancier ruler, essentially," Dr. Eckner said. "It's basically a dowel rod that we've coated in friction tape, and we've marked it in centimeter increments. And then at the base of it there's a little rubber disc, which is actually a hockey puck that it's embedded in."

The device is so simple that it has the potential of being used on the sidelines of a football game. The person being tested sits with his or her forearm resting on a table. The person administering the test holds the device so that the subject's hand is encircling, but not touching, the hockey puck. At a random moment the investigator drops the device, and the subject catches it as soon as he or she can. …


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