Health Beat: BrainScope test for concussion

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By Melanie Falcon

Published: May 10, 2018

BALTIMORE - Football is a tough sport. A hard strike to the head is not uncommon. Towson University linebacker Zane Ventimiglia suffered not one, but two concussions last season. He didn't see either hit coming, but felt them after.

"I remember being pretty off-kilter, not able to balance well," recalled Ventimiglia, 21.

Athletic director Nathan Wilder said right after injury, trainers have to rely partly on subjective tests, like how an athlete looks or says he feels.

"These kids are pretty resilient. They'll take a hit, come off and say they're OK. Then, a couple of minutes later, they're not," Wilder said.

Now, there's a new, portable device designed to give an objective assessment. The BrainScope measures brain waves.

"When somebody hits the head, it changes the brain electrical activity pattern," said Leslie Prichep, the chief science officer at BrainScope.

It's designed so a trainer can easily use it. There's a disposable headset with sensors that attach to the injured athlete's forehead. A smartphone with specialized software picks up the readings.

"Using the sophisticated algorithms that the BrainScope one implements, it looks for that set of changes that are distinctive of a traumatic brain injury," Prichep continued.

The readings can help trainers decide whether the athlete needs more advanced medical screening. It's a real-time scan for brain injury, without hours of delay.

The FDA has approved the BrainScope device, and it's funded by the NFL and the Department of Defense. The BrainScope is already being used by some athletic department personnel, like those at Towson University near Baltimore.

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