Concussion diagnostic tool goes from hospital to sidelines

System uses iPad, cloud to track symptoms


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Allegheny Health Network rolled out a new iPad tool Friday that it says will eventually help evaluate and manage concussions from the sideline to the doctor's office in 29 Western Pennsylvania counties.

The C3 Logix system, developed by iComet Technologies in Cleveland, helps assess symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury, gauging balance, reaction time, memory and processing time, motor function and vision, in part by strapping an iPad to a patient's back and taking gyroscopic and motion data.

At a news conference Friday at Highmark Stadium, home of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Allegheny Health officials said the C3 system is used in more than 50 schools in northeastern Ohio as well as at Robert Morris University and by the Riverhounds.

Allegheny Health plans to begin using the system in five pilot districts before expanding it to all of the 16 high schools that receive athletic training services through Allegheny Sports Medicine. Those are Avonworth, Baldwin-Whitehall, Bethel Park, Bishop Canevin, Brentwood, Canon-McMillan, Chartiers-Houston, Franklin Regional, Greensburg Central Catholic, Hampton, Montour, Moon, North Catholic, North Hills, Northgate and Seton-LaSalle.

"I think this is going to be a little piece to a bigger puzzle and it's going to make us able to manage these concussions a lot more effectively, a lot safer, and a lot of people will get back to playing in a manner that's better in the long run for their health," said Edward Snell, team physician for the Pittsburgh Pirates and director of Allegheny General Hospital's Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship and Sports Concussion Clinic.

Athletic trainers led Riverhounds defender Sterling Flunder through the process, which included balancing in various positions on a piece of foam, vision, reflex and cognitive tests using the iPad's touch screen and other evaluations.

Craig Castor, a licensed athletic trainer and a sports medicine manager for Allegheny Health Network, said the system can be used on the sidelines immediately after an injury.

"We're going to use this to initiate data collection," Mr. Castor said, adding that most concussion tests focus only on cognitive abilities. From the sidelines, the information gets uploaded to a cloud program that physicians will be able to access to help determine recovery time, he added

Dr. Snell said concussion diagnosis remains "somewhat subjective" and while treatment of the injuries hasn't changed much, "the management has changed tremendously."

"Each concussion is individual," he said, adding that symptoms and lingering effects can vary from person to person, making individualized data collected on the sidelines helpful. "I can't just rubber-stamp you."

The health system will pilot the technology at five local districts, although it would not identify them because some school boards have not yet approved the program, said Jennifer Davis, a spokeswoman for Allegheny Health Network. How much it might eventually cost the school systems also remained unclear.

"We are developing a pricing model based on the costs incurred in a number of pilot programs that will be offered this year both through Allegheny Health Network and other partnered providers," Ms. Davis wrote in an e-mail.

Concussions have become high-profile injuries in the past several years, driven in part by a lawsuit, settled last month for $765 million, brought by thousands of former National Football League players and surviving relatives who claimed the league ignored evidence that repeated concussions could cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease closely related to Alzheimer's.

In Pennsylvania, a law went into effect last year requiring that students showing symptoms of a concussion must be removed from play and not allowed to return until they are cleared by a medical professional.

health

Robert Zullo: rzullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3909.


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