Balancing out concussions

June 9, 2014 by Michael Price
The BTrackS system in action.

There are lots of ways to diagnose concussions in athletes injured on the field.

The standard battery of tests involve asking them questions on the field such as whether they feel woozy and if they remember recent events. Slightly more sophisticated tests involve asking them to stand in place and making a subjective judgment of their . The problem is, some athletes lie about symptoms or their memories in order to get back out on the field, and subjective measures of balance just aren't that reliable.

A team of biomechanics researchers at San Diego State University has created a quick, affordable and reliable device that can objectively assess an injured athlete's balance and help training staff determine whether it's likely he or she has a concussion.

Their balance tracking system, named BTrackS, is portable and about the size of a thin briefcase. Trainers can plug it into a laptop and have it set up and ready to go during games.

If an athlete gets injured, he or she stands on a with their eyes closed and the machine provides objective feedback on an athlete's balance, measuring the amount of sway and converting that into a score. Trainers can then compare that to scores previously recorded when the athletes were healthy.

Daniel Goble, an assistant professor of exercise and nutritional science at SDSU who heads up the BTrackS team, said the device is a major improvement over traditional on-field cognitive tests or subjective balance tests.

"These athletes are smart, and they want to be out on the field, even if it puts their health at risk," he said. "They have tricks to pass the other tests. Balance is tougher to fake."

Goble and his team are presently working to obtain U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for BTrackS, as it is considered a Class I medical device. Once it has been cleared by the FDA, he expects to have it on the market by end of summer.

BTrackS has been developed through the Zahn Innovation Center, a commercial and social incubator that supports SDSU innovators and aspiring entrepreneurs as they transform their ideas into companies.

An affordable option

What will set BTrackS apart from other similar balance-measuring devices on the market will be its cost. Comparable devices right now cost around $10,000, Goble said. BTrackS will likely be under $1,000.

Goble published his initial findings showing the accuracy of the BTrackS in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine last year and has since tested the device on SDSU including rugby players, soccer players, water polo players and swimmers/divers. He continues to fine tune the device and further the research base supporting its effectiveness. He and his colleagues are attending the National Athletic Trainers Association later this month to present BTrackS and gather feedback.

Other applications

Concussion detection isn't the only application Goble envisions for BTrackS. In time, he believes it will also be instrumental in helping to catch other balance-related medical concerns, such as falling in the elderly.

"Since many more individuals will be able to afford this gold standard balance assessment technology than in the past, BTrackS has the potential to transform the medical field," Goble said.

Explore further: Тew device accurately and objectively diagnoses concussions from the sidelines

More information: "An Alternative to the Balance Error Scoring System: Using a Low-Cost Balance Board to Improve the Validity/Reliability of Sports-Related Concussion Balance Testing." Chang, Jasper O. MA, ATC; Levy, Susan S. PhD; Seay, Seth W. BSc; Goble, Daniel J. PhD. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: May 2014 - Volume 24 - Issue 3 - p 256–262, DOI: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000016

Related Stories

Тew device accurately and objectively diagnoses concussions from the sidelines

August 28, 2013
In the United States there are millions of sports related concussions each year, but many go undiagnosed because for some athletes, the fear of being benched trumps the fear of permanent brain damage, and there is no objective ...

Smartphone application can assist with concussion detection and treatment

February 8, 2013
An entrepreneur with close ties to Wichita State University has developed an iPhone application that researchers say could revolutionize how a key symptom of concussions can be quickly and accurately detected within minutes.

More evidence that vision test on sidelines may help diagnose concussion

February 26, 2014
A simple vision test performed on the sidelines may help determine whether athletes have suffered a concussion, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual ...

NATA: Recommendations issued for sport concussion management

March 17, 2014
(HealthDay)—Recommendations have been developed for management of sport-related concussion. The recommendations have been published online March 7 in the Journal of Athletic Training as a National Athletic Trainers' Association ...

Study: Concussion rate in high-school athletes more than doubled in seven-year period

May 6, 2014
Concussion rates in U.S. high-school athletes more than doubled between 2005 and 2012, according to a new national study using data on nine team sports.

Researchers pioneer virtual reality to help athletes after concussions

January 14, 2013
Penn State may be the first institution to use virtual reality to protect student athletes from the very real consequences of concussions. University researchers in kinesiology, information technology and sports medicine ...

Recommended for you

Americans misinformed about smoking

August 22, 2017
After voluminous research studies, numerous lawsuits and millions of deaths linked to cigarettes, it might seem likely that Americans now properly understand the risks of smoking.

Women who sexually abuse children are just as harmful to their victims as male abusers

August 21, 2017
"That she might seduce a helpless child into sexplay is unthinkable, and even if she did so, what harm can be done without a penis?"

To reduce postoperative pain, consider sleep—and caffeine

August 18, 2017
Sleep is essential for good mental and physical health, and chronic insufficient sleep increases the risk for several chronic health problems.

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

Doctors exploring how to prescribe income security

August 18, 2017
Physicians at St. Michael's Hospital are studying how full-time income support workers hired by health-care clinics can help vulnerable patients or those living in poverty improve their finances and their health.

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.