Mayo Researchers Study New Way to Diagnose Concussions

January 30, 2017 09:37 AM

In the state of hockey, a group of Mayo Clinic researchers has a different goal in mind. They believe there are better ways to diagnose concussions. With the help of the Rochester Ice Hawks, a junior hockey team, they've set out to prove it.

The goal is to come up with an objective way to diagnose concussions, using measures including blood work, the King-Devick eye test, encephalography, and accelerometers which give researchers real-time data.


"Here it shows me the most recent hit and the G-force that was sustained of that hit," said research assistant Kyle Farrell, showing a readout displayed on his phone. Farrell attends Ice Hawks home games, collecting data with a cap connected to wires.

"We call it the neurocatch cap," he said.

Researchers strap it to a potentially concussed player's head, and it makes various sounds allowing researchers evaluate how that player's brain responds.

"That's one of their questions," Farrell said. "Can you read my thoughts? Can you read my mind?"

It can't, but an athlete's mind is part of the problem.

"There's such a discrepancy between what somebody thinks or wants to think and what's truly happening in their body," said Principal Investigator Aynsley M. Smith. "For instance, if there's a scout in the crowd, a player may be hesitant to reveal concussion symptoms for fear of coming out of the game.

Smith said the research has implications far beyond hockey. It applies to all head injuries, even those sustained by military personnel.

"The ramifications of this objective diagnosis are huge," Smith explained.

The study, funded in part by USA Hockey, is still theoretical at this point. However, the hope is the objective data leads to a new way of diagnosing and eventually treating concussions.


Josh Rosenthal

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