June 2020 - 20
and the concussion center's director, to the discovery of
blood-based biomarkers of concussions from metabolic
profiling of plasma.
What does that mean exactly? Well, while an estimate
of 1.8 to 3.6 million people suffer concussions, there are
no firm diagnostic tools evaluate the injury. The current
standard for evaluating concussions relies on individual
interpretation of clinical examinations, which are
subjective in nature. And there are no objective tools for
predicting how long it will take for predicting the recovery
rate of an athlete.
" There's no gold standard [diagnosing concussions], "
Broglio said. " There's nothing like an X-Ray where we can
see the crack in the bone, "
To solve this gap in healthcare the Michigan Concussion
Center developed a device, called functional near-infrared
spectroscopy (fNIRS) composed of optical fibers that
deliver an infrared light to the forehead in order to
measure brain metabolites associated with head injuries.
This technology is the first step in the development of a
test that may be able to diagnose concussions, instead of
relying on a clinical examination and interpretation by a
" This is probably still 10-plus years away, on the early side,
before public consumption, " Broglio said. " But eventually we
hope to be able to use this on the sidelines or in the locker
room at halftime that gives us a definitive yes or no. "
In the meantime, Broglio, a former athletic trainer,
said it's important to know your student-athletes - their
personalities both on and off the field, their speech
cadence, and overall demeanor - in detecting early signs
of a concussion.
" The player that's lying motionless on the ground is easy
to detect. But half of the concussions you deal with are
ambiguous. Knowing how [the student-athletes] act is the
trigger of the full evaluation process. "
He also pointed to sources like Virginia Tech's
five-star helmet rating system that provides unbiased
helmet ratings that allow consumers to make informed
decisions when purchasing helmets. And it's not just
for football helmets, as they rate helmets ranging from
hockey to soccer to bicycle helmets and other sports
But all of this is fruitless unless leadership buys into
the seriousness of concussions and the after-effects.
Coaches and administrators must create a culture where
taking preventative measures to avoid concussions is a
priority and communicate to their teams to look out for
" I think the coach's attitude is the number predictor of
concussions in student-athletes, " Broglio said. " If a coach
doesn't believe in concussions or thinks those who report
them are wimps, that's going to shift how the student-athlete
is going to approach the situation. "
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