The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) defines concussion as "an injury to the brain that results in temporary loss of normal brain function."1 Often caused by a blow to the head, a concussion doesn’t always result in a loss of consciousness. In fact, diagnosing a concussion can be challenging because people with a potential concussion display a wide range of symptoms including headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, impaired balanced, and disturbed vision.
Because of its difficult diagnosis, and its widespread prevalence among multiple populations, such as youth athletes, concussion today is considered by many experts to be a public health issue. "Brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability worldwide," according to the International Brain Injury Association (IBIA).2 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that "of all types of injury, those to the brain are the most likely to result in death or permanent disability." Among other statistics reported by the IBIA:
- An estimated 5.3 million Americans are living today with disability related to traumatic brain injury.
- The highest rate of injury occurs between the ages of 15 to 24 years.
- Brain injury can cause many kinds of physical, cognitive, and behavioral/emotional impairments that may be either temporary or permanent.
While traumatic brain injury (TBI) and concussion are not interchangeable, concussion is considered a form of traumatic brain injury, sometimes named mTBI or MTBI for "mild traumatic brain injury," with mTBI being a subset of TBI.
The 5.3 million Americans with a TBI related disability may actually be low, as the number is comprised only of reported cases. Even using this probably low statistic, 5.3 million Americans with a TBI disability translates into approximately 1 in every 60 Americans.
Also, 54 percent of young athletes report that they have played while injured3. Athletes "game" the system for all sorts of reasons, including intentionally doing less than their best on baseline tests in order to stay in the game in the event they do have an injury. For young athletes, it may be the result of peer pressure or a chance at popularity or even a prospective college scholarship. For college athletes, it may be keeping the scholarship or a place on a competitive team, or the chance of turning professional. For professional athletes, again it is about competition and multi-million dollar contracts.
College athletes also return to the sport too soon and underreport symptoms. "A survey of American university athletes in 2014 found that 20 percent believed they had suffered a concussion, but almost 80 percent of those decided to continue to play rather than seek medical attention. Most felt their concussion was not serious and were concerned that revealing their injury would affect their standing with the team."4
Widely publicized concern over the long-lasting impact of concussion on children continues to grow, with the ethics of potentially subjecting children to permanent injury at the forefront of the conversation. A March 6, 2016 article in the Economist explains4:
"In the end, adult athletes can make up their own minds about what risks they wish to take. Children, though, cannot. It is therefore children who should attract the greatest attention. Not only are some children obliged to play contact sports at school, but they may also be participating in an environment that encourages a "stiff upper lip" when they are injured. Yet it has been clear since a study published in 2012 by Andrew Mayer at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque that subtle brain changes in children who have sustained a concussion persist for months after the injury, even when there are no longer any obvious symptoms."
Looking more closely at the total youth market, 60 million children ages 6 to 18 participate in organized athletics, according to the National Council of Youth Sports.5 This number includes what the National Sporting Goods Association reports to be 46.5 million US children across all ages who play team sports.6 These numbers have grown significantly over the past several decades, driven by significant increases in the number of young women who participate in organized sports.
At the same time, during the 2014-15 academic year, a total 7.8 million high school student athletes participated in school sponsored sports. These numbers include 2.5 million student athletes who participated in a contact sport, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations 2014-2015 High School Athletics Participation Survey.7
60 million young athletes overall is indeed a staggering number. With it comes sports injuries in record numbers. "Traumatic brain injury (TBI) in children is a significant public health concern estimated to result in over 500,000 emergency department (ED) visits and more than 60,000 hospitalizations in the United States annually," according to a recent study examining the predictors of outcomes for traumatic brain injury in pediatric sports injuries.8 While not all of these hospital encounters are caused by sports injuries, sports caused injury do account for 20 percent of all pediatric ED visits. And among children, those ages 12-15 experience the highest rate of emergency room visits for concussion.
Equally concerning is the fact that a 2016 study presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference indicated that 1/3 of pediatric patients treated for concussions at a Texas sports clinic went back into the game after injury, despite safety recommendations.9
Quite obviously, the high incidence of concussion (1.6 to 3.8 3 million yearly according to the CDC)10, and the struggles to diagnose and then effectively manage it, especially in youth sports, call for new tools. EyeGuide Focus answers that call. Many current concussion management tools cannot be used immediately after a possible concussion and often take far too long to administer. Some are also expensive, requiring schools on limited budgets to test only some of their athletes. Some also can be gamed or cheated.
EyeGuide Focus, however, is affordable. It is also reliable. According to Dr. Benedicto Baronia, a pediatric neurosurgeon and concussion clinic director, "the most common concussion symptom is attention impairment. Evaluating eye movement is a more accurate measurement of attention impairment than neuropsychological testing used by many concussion products. EyeGuide Focus is simple but reliable because it tests users’ eyes to see if they can visually keep steady, accurate attention on a moving object. If they cannot keep normal attention, then the failure to do so, given other factors, such as a hard hit in a football game, indicates possible neurological impairment."
Read more about the proven science behind EyeGuide focus and see how it works.