Test on the Sidelines to Spot Concussion

Vision test on sidelines can help correctly identify consussions

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) After a concussion, the most appropriate treatment for athletes is physical and cognitive rest. But the concussion has to be recognized in the first place.

A recent study being presented at a conference has found that a vision test used on the sidelines can help in correctly diagnosing a concussion. The vision test usually takes less than a minute to complete — unless a person has a concussion.

When the results of the vision test were combined with the results of two other established concussion tests, all the concussions in a season were identified among a group of university athletes.

"Get physical and cognitive rest after a concussion."

The study, led by Rachel Ventura, MD, previously a resident at the Columbia University Medical Center's Department of Neurology, sought to determine whether using a vision test could improve the accuracy of concussion diagnosis for athletes.

The researchers studied the test with 217 athletes on the men's football, women's soccer and women's lacrosse teams at the University of Florida.

All the athletes took the King-Devick test along with several other concussion tests at the start of the season to get an initial set of scores. The other tests included the Standardized Assessment of Concussion (SAC) and the Balance Error Scoring System (BESS).

Most of the athletes completed the King-Devick test in less than a minute. The test requires the athletes to be able to move their eyes at a normal rate and to have complete command of their language and concentration. A concussion can impair these skills.

During the season, 30 of the players experienced concussions and took the same tests at the time they experienced or reported the injury.

During these retests, 79 percent of the concussed players took longer to complete the King-Devick test than average.Just over half the concussed athletes (52 percent) also scored at least two points worse on the SAC.

When the researchers combined the results of the King-Devick test with the results of the SAC, they were able to correctly diagnose 89 percent of the concussions. When these scores were added to those of the BESS for the concussed athletes, the researchers correctly identified every single athlete's concussion.

The researchers also discovered that the athletes with the worst King-Devick scores tended to have more severe concussion symptoms, particularly sensitivity to light and noise.

"Adding a vision-based test may allow us to detect more athletes with concussion," the researchers wrote. "This is particularly important since not all athletes reliably report symptoms of concussion, including those related to visual function."

The study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia in the spring.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health. No conflicts of interest were noted.

This study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, so its findings should be considered preliminary.

Review Date: 
February 23, 2014
Last Updated:
March 1, 2014