Visual Tests Better at Detecting Concussion Than Traditional Tests

doctor examining woman

Involvement in certain sports, such as football, soccer, or hockey, comes with a significant risk of repeat concussion. Athletes who have suffered a previous concussion are more likely to suffer another in the future, with each concussion increasing the brain's vulnerability to further injury and decreasing its ability to recover. It is therefore important to take previous concussion under consideration for risk management and return-to-play protocols.

Traditional assessment of sports-related concussion often includes neuropsychological testing with tools such as the ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing). Although the ImPACT may be accurate for acute concussion, it is not able to assess for past concussion. Some studies have found that deficits in oculomotor function, which is important for eye movement, can be a long-term consequence of a past concussion. Screening for oculomotor dysfunction may therefore be a useful predictor of past concussion in athletes.

A recent study of 42 hockey players found that using oculomotor assessments was more than 10 times more accurate at predicting a past concussion than the ImPACT. The researchers suggest that oculomotor assessment may be a sensitive tool for developing individual concussion management plans for athletes.

Poltavski DV & Biberdork D. Screening for lifetime concussion in athletes: Importance of oculomotor measures. Brain Injury. (April 2014).