Head Concussions: New technology helps determine when kids can return to playing field

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) -- New technology is helping doctors and parents know when it's safe for a child who suffered a concussion to return to the classroom and the playing field.

The technology is part of state of the art concussion research that's underway at the Shriner's Hospital on the USF Campus.

WFLA Reporter Leslee Lacey first reported on the landmark concussion program when it began last year. Leslee discovered that Shriner's Hospital is using cutting edge technology that focuses on the eyes. Dr. Richard Radecki is the medical rehab director and leads the concussion research program.

He has purchased a two new pieces of hardware to aid in assisting children with concussions.  Eye Link is a painless, 20-second test where children place their head in a chin rest as their eyes follow a dot around a computer screen. It measures the saccades of the eye, which is a type of rapid-eye movement.

Jamie Pirone, is a certified athletic trainer at Shriners who is a sideline aid at Middleton High School sporting events. She helps kids take the Eye Link test.

RELATED: What you need to know about sports-related concussions

"We are looking for something like this, which is a circular pattern. If there is a brain injury then we will see something of an odd shape. It might not be a circle it might have a huge deviation, or something of that nature," said Pirone.

"We are ahead of the game," she added, "This is something new that nobody in this area is doing with regards to pediatric concussions."

Doctor Radecki also acquired a Neuro Sensory Integrator, which has a touch screen and is used for visual therapy.

"We are trying to integrate more and more vision therapy because about 90 percent of people with concussion or mild brain injuries have abnormalities in sight."

Typically, the nationally recognized IMPACT assessment test is standard, Radecki says it leaves room for error. Eye Link takes the thinking out of the concussion test.

"It's been used in the adult population with very high accuracy. It's subconscious, so there's no way in manipulating it, or anything like that." Radecki adds, "75 percent of the brain works in vision, so it measures different areas of the brain and how they interact with each other."

Radecki says Eye Link will help determine when it's safe for a child to return to learning or the playing field. That information is also crucial to concussion recovery.

Radecki wants parents to know that no child is ever turned away at the Shriner's Hospital for inability to pay. Kids who want a physical for sports can take the IMPACT and Eye Link test, so they will have a baseline. That way, if they get a concussion they can compare it to the normal pre-concussion results.

Be sure to watch WFLA News Channel 8 from 4:30 to 7 a.m. during the month of August. Every morning, we'll bring you a special back-to-school story to help you and your family prepare for the school year.

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