The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 1.6 and 3.8 million concussions occur each year. Athletes are particularly susceptible to the head injury, with between 5 and 10 percent experiencing a concussion in any given sports season, according to the Sports Concussion Institute. Football players face a particularly high risk, with an athlete having a 75 percent chance of receiving a concussion.
At the 68th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, which is being held in Vancouver, Canada, researchers presented the findings of a new study, in which they utilized an ultrasound headset to recognize concussions, and differentiate a concussed brain from a healthy brain.
Called a transcranial Doppler device (TCD), the device measures blood flow activity in the brain. Particularly, it’s looking at how blood moves through the middle cerebral artery.
In their study, the researchers used a pool of 66 high school athletes who had recently been diagnosed with a concussion, and a control group of 169 athletes. Each participant’s brain blood flow was measured an average six days after the injury. TCD was capable of differentiating between healthy and concussed athletes 83 percent of the time. Traditional TCD techniques only boasted accuracies between 53 and 60 percent.
“While more research is needed, the hope is such a tool could one day be used on the sidelines to help determine more quickly whether an athlete needs further testing,” said study author Robert Hamilton in a statement. Hamilton is the co-founder of Neural Analytics, formed by members of the University of California, Los Angeles’ Department of Neurology.
The pool of study participants played a variety of sports, from football, soccer and basketball to water polo and lacrosse.
“The potential of having an accessible technology that detects a physiological change following brain trauma is very exciting,” said Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, of The Sports Neurology Clinic, in a statement. “However, what these detected blood flow changes mean to a patient’s clinical care is still unclear.”
This article originally appeared in R&D.