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Researchers offer inexpensive concussion diagnosis device

Wednesday's health and safety news from around sports:

*The New York Times reported on a simple device, made up of a hockey puck and a dowel, to diagnose a concussion.


Eminently practical, it offers a means by which any team, no matter how small or cash-strapped, can assess the likelihood of one of its players having sustained an on-field concussion. It also celebrates a nifty, D.I.Y., MacGyver-ish sensibility rarely seen in our technology-obsessed times.


The study's authors began with the simple idea that, to manage sports-related concussions, "you need to be able to quickly and easily assess" whether a given player has actually sustained one, said Steven P. Broglio, director of the University of Michigan's NeuroSport Research Laboratory and co-author of the study. Not every head impact results in a concussion.


One means of assessing concussion status, Dr. Broglio continued, is to look at a player's reaction time, since it is known to increase immediately after a concussion. A variety of scientifically validated tools exist to measure players' reaction times, but most require a computer and sophisticated software, and are not practicable on the sidelines or in the budgets of many teams.


So Dr. Broglio and his colleague Dr. James Eckner, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Michigan, set out to develop an inexpensive means of measuring reaction time. After some noodling, Dr. Eckner came up with the idea of attaching a hockey puck via adhesive to a long wooden dowel, and marking centimeters in ink along the length of the dowel.


* The Cleveland Clinic is expanding its iPad sideline app for diagnosing concussions to use by Rock Valley High School in Rock City, Iowa -- the home school district of clinic biomechanical engineer Jay Alberts, The Plain Dealer reported.


The Clinic began using the iPads to compile baseline data for about 100 athletes at John Carroll University and Solon and Brecksville high schools in the summer of 2011. More than 50 schools in Northeast Ohio are now using the app for more than 6,000 athletes playing football, soccer, hockey and volleyball, among other sports, Alberts said.


Alberts, director of the Cleveland Clinic Concussion Center, said he wanted to expand the use of the iPads to a rural school district where there are fewer athletic trainers and often only one general practitioner for the population.


"We in Northeast Ohio do not really live in reality," Alberts said. "Most schools here have a certified athletic trainer. We have the Cleveland Clinic and other world-class healthcare organizations with doctors who specialize in these conditions…They have one physician who treats everything from little old ladies with bunions to concussions, to Parkinson's. They have a great breadth of knowledge -- what we're doing is providing them a little more depth in the assessment of concussion."


* Meanwhile, the Cleveland Clinic says a new blood test might be the best way to diagnose concussive hits, WWSB-TV reported.

*The Baltimore Sun reported that Maryland's department of education has recommended limiting full-contact football practices to two per week.

* The Winston Salem Journal interviewed Buddy Curry, who has been working as a USA Football Master Trainer in teaching the Heads Up Football program.

* InventHelp announced the patent of a new strap for hockey helmets that is intended to better stabilize the headgear.

*The Norman Transcript wrote about the Newcastle High School football team, which is the subject of Brooke de Lench's documentary, "Home Team Advantage."

* Statewide testing of athletes for drugs is not on the way in Colorado, The Coloradoan reported.

* Parents of high school athletes in Montana will be required to sign a waiver attesting that they know the risks of concussions, according to the Billings Gazette.

* KSHB-TV in Kansas City profiled the Heads Up Football training in the area.

* Oakland A's catcher John Jaso has visited a specialist because of his concussion issues, MLB.com reported.

-- Bill Bradley, contributing editor

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