More than 400,000 concussions occurred in high school sports during a recent school year. That fact is alarming given that the brains of youth are not full developed, making them more susceptible to damage.
The danger to our young athletes from concussions has leading American activist Ralph Nader calling for mandatory implementation of the King-Devick concussion test in high school and youth sports throughout the nation.
Nader says sports organizations from Little League to the National Football League must do more when it comes to prevention and safety from concussions.
“The growing mound of research showing the often devastating long-term effects of sports-related brain trauma demands that we take proactive measures to protect our young athletes’ brains,” Nader says. “The King-Devick test is a simple and objective sideline screening test that can be administered by coaches, trainers and parents.”
Nader is pushing the simple concussion test in conjunction with the release Aug. 25 of his League of Fans organization’s fifth report from its Sports Manifesto, “Concussion Research Can’t Be Ignored.” The sports advocacy group seeks reforms that encourage civic responsibility in sports industry and culture. Although the King-Devick Test is described as the most “critical aspect of a concussion safety plan,” Nader also recommends developing a concussion policy for every sports league, implementing educational campaigns and passing state laws on youth sports concussions similar to Colorado’s.
Research by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine is proving that the King-Devick Test is an accurate and objective tool in quickly determining at sporting events whether an athlete has suffered a concussion. There is a need for a rapid screening test to diagnose early signs of a concussion and prevent further brain damage.
The test is a one-to-two-minute test that requires an athlete to establish a baseline time at the start of every season by reading a series of single digit numbers displayed on three flash cards. After a possible head injury, the athlete is given the test again. If the time needed to complete the test is more than five seconds slower than the baseline test, a concussion can be confidently suspected. At that point, the athlete should be removed from play and evaluated by a licensed medical professional.
Steve Devick, an optometrist and entrepreneur, helped develop the King-Devick Test as a part of his doctoral thesis with Dr. Al King in 1976 at the Illinois College of Optometry. After being used for more than 25 years as the leading method to measure saccadic eye movements and detect reading difficulties, the King-Devick Test is now being used to detect concussions.
Devick says the call by Nader for its use to become standard at the high school level on down came as a surprise to him. Devick earned the Academy’s 2011 Dr. Ernst Jokl Sports Medicine Award for development of the concussion test. He is scheduled to give a free seminar and demonstration at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11 at the Academy’s campus in Daphne.
“This was unexpected,” Devick said. “My hope is this test will be used to help protect many athletes from returning to play too early and suffering further brain injuries.”
Concussions have become a major issue in sport at all levels as mounting research shows a link between concussions and serious brain damage, even death. Children and teenagers are more likely to get a concussion than an adult, and take longer to recover from concussions, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Playing with a concussion can lead to death from Second Impact Syndrome (SIS), a condition that causes the brain to swell, shutting down the brain stem and resulting in respiratory failure. In the past two years, eight youth have died from concussion-related problems and dozens more have suffered catastrophic brain injuries.
Another growing concern is the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) from concussions. CTE symptoms include chronic headaches, fatigue, sleep difficulties, sensitivity to light and noise, dizziness and short-term memory loss.
Statistics from the Center for Disease Control show that the chance of a 30-49 year old man receiving a diagnosis of dementia, Alzheimer’s or another memory related disease is 1 in 1,000 and dramatically increases to 1 in 53 for an NFL retiree who is the same age. Players who suffered multiple concussions are three times more likely to suffer depression.
Nader’s League of Fans advocacy group points out that knee and shoulder injuries are one thing but brain injuries are an entirely different matter. It adds that while much of the attention focuses on football, girls’ soccer is the sport with the second most concussions.
“An easy-to-learn, inexpensive and highly accurate concussion screening tool like the King-Devick test could prevent thousands of devastating brain injuries in high school and youth sports programs,” says Dr. Ken Reed, League of Fan’s policy director and an Academy non-resident faculty member. “As such, it should be implemented across the nation immediately.”
Steve Devick, who earned the Academy’s 2011 Dr. Ernst Jokl Sports Medicine Award for developing the King-Devick Test, is scheduled to give a seminar and demonstration at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11 at the university’s campus in Daphne. Registration is free but seating is limited, so make your reservations early by calling the Academy at 251-626-3303.
For more information and resources about the King-Devick Test, including a sample test and how-to video, please visit http://www.ussa.edu/landing/king-devick and http://kingdevicktest.com/
Duwayne Escobedo has had a long career in journalism and has worked as a political consultant. He currently serves as the Director of Communications at the United States Sports Academy where he is also the editor of The Sport Journal, the world’s largest online, peer-reviewed journal of sport. Read it online at http://www.thesportjournal.org. For more information on programs offered at the Academy please go to http://www.ussa.edu.