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Cleveland Clinic Hopes New iPad App Helps Diagnose Concussions

Brecksville-Broadview Heights athletes took part in a pilot of the app this fall.

This fall, had another tool to help students on the sidelines.

That tool came in the form of an iPad app created by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic to help doctors and athletic trainers spot a concussion. Brecksville-Broadview Heights was one of the districts in the pilot, which also included and John Carroll University.

A concussion is a complicated, “multi-symptom” event, said lead developer Jay Alberts, of the department of biomedical engineering and the Center for Neurological Restoration at the clinic. But often, people just check for memory loss after a possible concussion, asking the individual if they know what day it is.

The app, called the Cleveland Clinic Concussion Assessment System, helps give trainers ways to check for other possible signs—like a change in balance or difficulty focusing—and compare it to the student’s healthy test results. These tests aren’t necessarily new, but the app pulls them all together and makes them a mobile resource to use on the sidelines.

Alberts said he sees this app being used by school systems and athletic trainers in the future. They would test students at the beginning of the season so that after an incident, the trainer and any doctors would have a healthy baseline for comparisons. Currently, doctors tend to only see a student-athlete post-injury.

Brecksville-Broadview Heights baseline-tested about 20 football and soccer players this fall, said athletic trainer Tom Iannetta. Two of those students were re-tested because of injury later in the season.

The app includes a list of objective symptoms, Alberts said, and various tests to check for balance and focus. For example, part of the test has an athlete try to focus on letters on the screen while moving his or her head. For a student with a concussion, that movement may make them feel nauseous or they may have trouble focusing or concentrating.

Those working on the app are trying to “take a lot of the art out of these evaluations and putting the science into them,” Alberts said.

The app is still new, but Iannetta said he thought it was useful and helped evaluate when the students could return to play. He said he hopes it can be put to everyday use.

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