The Sport Digest has run stories in the past about the King-Devick test that provides a quick tool to help diagnose probable concussions right on the sidelines during an athletic contest. This test was adapted for concussion evaluation by Dr. Steve Devick after he and a business partner had originally developed the test as a vision testing aid in 1976.
The test studied rapid eye movements, called saccade. These movements were a factor in diagnosing eye conditions such as nystagmus. This condition can make reading more difficult. The King-Devick test was originally designed to test saccadic performance. It has been used for years by school personnel because a State University of New York (SUNY) study showed that it could easily be administered and scored by non-medical persons. It has been used by school systems to test for eye conditions, such as dyslexia.
The test involves a subject reading aloud a series of single digit numbers from three test cards. The sum of the three test card time scores constitutes the summary score for the entire test. It takes less than two minutes to administer the entire test.
The test was studied in 2011 by experts at the University of Pennsylvania who found a link between scores on this test and the need to remove athletes who have just suffered a direct blow to the head from competition because of the probability of a concussion. Researchers studied 39 boxers and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters. These subjects were given pre- and post-fight tests. It was discovered that fighters found to have sustained a significant head blow during a fight were much more likely to have a significantly higher (worse) score on the King-Devick test than those who had not sustained such a blow during a fight.
The researchers concluded that the King-Devick Test was an accurate and reliable tool for quickly determining that an athlete had suffered head trauma. Such athletes would then be withheld from further competition pending a more thorough medical evaluation. This 2011 study built on a similar 2010 study at the University of Pennsylvania of 219 athletes at Penn who participated in football, sprint football, men’s and women’s soccer and men’s and women’s basketball. This study identified 10 athletes who were known to have sustained concussions during competition and then examined their King-Devick test scores, comparing their baseline scores with the scores taken on the sidelines following the head trauma event.
This test is being used more and more at various levels of competition. On August 24, 2012 the Dave Duerson Foundation announced that they will be equipping all Chicago Public High Schools with the King-Devick test for sideline screening. The Foundation, through individual and corporate sponsors, also announced plans to provide the test to schools in other major cities in the U.S.
Dave Duerson was the former Notre Dame and Chicago Bear defensive back who committed suicide in 2011. He left instructions asking that his brain be tested for the presence of traumatic brain injury. A noted group at Boston University performed these tests and confirmed that Duerson had suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition brought on by repeated traumatic brain injuries.
These types of injuries and their long-term impacts are at the heart of the current mega-lawsuit involving more than 3,000 former players and the National Football League (NFL). There are many people who believe that the King-Devick Test offers a safe, inexpensive and easy way to quickly diagnose these injuries right on the sidelines of playing fields. The Dave Duerson Foundation is trying to equip inner-city schools with this tool to help protect their student-athletes.
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