Minnesota doctor's tech could help protect athletes who suffer head injuries

When Tua Tagovailoa was sacked last Thursday by the Cincinnati Bengals, hitting his head on the ground, some questioned why the Dolphins quarterback was in the game in the first place, because he had also hit his head days earlier playing the Buffalo Bills and was cleared to return to that game, even though he had noticeably stumbled on the field.

The Dolphins said Tagovailoa passed an evaluation of the NFL's concussion protocols, but a former neurotrauma consultant for the NFL says that doesn't mean he didn't have a concussion.

"The limitation with best practices is there is tremendous variability in football players," said Dr. Uzma Samadani.

Dr. Samadani evaluated players for signs of concussion on NFL sidelines for four years.

She says currently the league asks players with potential concussions questions that test their orientation, where they are, and their memory, like reciting a list of numbers backward. 

But she says some players are better than others at answering those questions correctly, even though they may have a brain injury.

"Some players can do those tasks even when they are concussed, that's the challenge," said Dr. Samadani.

Dr. Samadani says a better way to look for concussions is to measure brain functions players can't voluntarily control.

She developed a technology called Eye Box, which tracks whether a person's eyes and pupils move at the same time as they watch a short video.

If they don't, it is a classic sign of a brain injury.

"If you don't have coordinated eye movements, we can tell and there is nothing you can do to make them coordinated," said Dr. Samadani.

Dr Samadani says the NFL is aware of the technology that could be used on the sidelines or in the locker room. 

She hopes the league is interested in adding it to their concussion protocols in the future.

"I believe this type of technology could make football safer," said Dr. Samadani.