New eye tracking technology used to detect concussions

New eye tracking technology used as a research tool at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) could lead to a more exact means of diagnosing a traumatic brain injury. It may even represent the first truly useful clinical lab test that would even help monitor recovery from a concussion.

Making headlines, the U.S. Soccer Federation wants medical professionals, not coaches, to decide if players suspected of concussions can stay in games. But it's not just football players suffering brain injuries.

“The vast majority of Americans who get a brain injury are not playing football and their brain injury is no less significant than Teddy Bridgewater's,” Dr. Uzma Samadani, MD, PhD, Division of Neurosurgery at HCMC, said. "It's mostly motor vehicle accidents, its people who fall at home, its kids having accidents from other causes completely unrelated TO organized sports."

A brain injury is actually the number one cause of death and disability in Americans under age 35, affecting 1.4 million people every year.  Until now, there’s been no way to measure how well the brain functions after a serious blow. But the new eye tracking technology has changed that.

“The CAT scan tells you what the brain looks like, it tells you how the brain looks structurally. And eye tracking tells you how it functions physiologically,” Dr. Samadani said.

When someone has a brain injury, their eye movements are not as well coordinated. Doctors measure the movements and convert it into a prediction of a patient's concussive status. And later it can help track progress as a patient goes through rehab.

“This is for everybody. This is for your uncle Joe who has something drop on his head at home and is hurt,” Dr. Samadani said.  

The technology could ultimately be a diagnostic tool on the sidelines and in hospitals everywhere.