Mayo Clinic-Endorsed Product Could Be Concussion 'Game-Changer'

May 11, 2017 11:37 AM

The Minnesota State High School League will not test new technology endorsed by the Mayo Clinic that allows parents and coaches to immediately and objectively diagnose concussions in athletes on the sidelines, according to the MSHSL's top medical advisor.

Dr. William Roberts, the chair of the MSHSL's Health Advisory Committee, said the science supporting the King Devick (KD) test - a peer-reviewed test that tracks the speed of eye movement in athletes after suspected head trauma - is lacking.

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“It’s a sideline assessment tool that is up-and-coming, but it hasn’t been tested very well at the high school level,” Roberts said in a recent interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

The KD test is currently an app that can be downloaded on a tablet computer. A person can take the test at the start of a season to set their baseline score.  After a possible head injury, the athlete can retake the test. If those speeds don't match, a player could have a concussion.

In 2015, the Mayo Clinic endorsed the KD test as a “quick, objective and accurate” sideline concussion tool.

It was one of the few times the world-renowned clinic has endorsed a product in its 150-year history.

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Dr. Michael Stuart, co-director of Mayo’s Sports Medicine Center, called the test a “game-changer.”

“Currently, there are very few ways to objectively diagnose a concussion,” Stuart said.

Dr. Josie O’Garra, who is a pediatrician, used the test during her sons’ hockey games in Duluth last winter.

“It takes all that bias and guesswork out of the process," O’Garra said, adding the test flagged three possible concussions and cleared several other players to return to the ice.

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The test has been used by a dozen NHL teams, including the Minnesota Wild, and by high schools in Michigan.

That state’s high school league funded a pilot program to evaluate the K-D test and a similar product - calling it  “a necessary alternative” to track concussions until there is an athletic trainer at every practice, every game, at every school.

In Minnesota, health officials have struggled to quantify the concussion problem.

In 2014, the Minnesota Department of Health conducted a study that found six out of every 100 high hockey players suffered a concussion - the same rate as football players.

But that study was limited to high schools in the Twin Cites metro area that have athletic trainers.

Stuart said the K-D test would help solve the problem of monitoring concussions in greater Minnesota.

"It would be wonderful if we had a certified athletic trainer at every single sporting event - in reality we don't,” said Stuart, who also sits on the MSHSL's Health Advisory Committee.

Roberts said costs have to be considered before such testing is implemented.

"Research like this doesn't come free - you have to have funding from somewhere,” Roberts said.

Yet the MSHSL has not requested additional funding for new concussion technology, research or monitoring.

Last month, the league took its first step toward doing so - drafting a letter that would formally ask for financial support from a national federation for high school leagues.

The money would be used to “conduct a concussion study utilizing select Minnesota schools in both the metropolitan and greater Minnesota areas,” according to the letter.

You can download the K-D app by searching King-Devick Mayo in the app store.

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Joe Augustine

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