The United States Sports Academy is joining NFL Hall of Fame cornerback Michael Haynes in urging officials, coaches and parents involved in professional, college and youth sports to use the King-Devick Test to identify concussions and prevent more serious brain injuries.
The test is an easy and rapid sideline screening test for concussions that can be administered by parents, coaches, athletic trainers, medical professionals and others.
The King-Devick Test has been proven by research to be an objective, accurate and reliable method at a time when mounting data shows a link between concussions and brain damage and a form of dementia called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE can cause symptoms such as chronic headaches, fatigue, sleep difficulties, sensitivity to light and noise, dizziness and short-term memory loss.
Haynes recently approached Academy President and CEO Dr. Thomas P. Rosandich about getting behind the test. It’s estimated that every season, one in five U.S. athletes in a contact sport suffers a concussion and more than 3.5 million sports-and-related concussions occur each year in the United States.
Haynes said he believes the test, which takes about 60 seconds, should become a standard procedure employed across all sports at all levels when any athlete suffers head trauma. A former cornerback with the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders, today Haynes is the National Football League’s Alumni’s Health & Wellness Committee chairman.
“I’m sure several of the protocols being implemented today would have protected guys from sustaining multiple head injuries during their careers in my day,” Haynes said. “The NFL is doing their due diligence and reviewing the King-Devick Test but I think that it’s likely that they will eventually use it in combination with other tests because studies will continue to be published regarding its accuracy and reliability.”
Here’s how the test works: You display three flash cards with a series of numbers on them to an uninjured athlete and record the time it takes them to read them out loud. You then display the test to the athlete again if they suffer head trauma. If an athlete is more than five seconds slower in reading the numbers compared to their baseline test taken when they were healthy, then they can be confidently diagnosed as suffering a concussion.
For more than 25 years, the King-Devick Test has been used as a tool in eye care and in psychologists’ office in relation to saccadic eye movements and their relationship to reading. It has also been part of many states’ vision screening battery.
Dr. Enrico Esposito, the Academy’s Chair of Sports Medicine, urged leaders of sports programs everywhere to start using the test.
“This is an old visual test that has now shown great potential as a quick sideline assessment of concussions,” Dr. Esposito said. “It’s easy to administer and easy to teach and anyone can do it, not just a medical professional. We need coaches and others to start using this rapid survey so they can say, ‘OK, this kid is done.’”
Up until now, tests for concussions have often been inconclusive but the King-Devick Test proved effective in a study done by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and published in the journal Neurology on April 26. The study examined 39 boxers and Mixed Martial Arts fighters and found post-fight test times on average for those who suffered head trauma worsened by 11.1 seconds, while those who had lost consciousness were on average 18 seconds slower. Those who did not suffer any head trauma actually improved their times by more than a second on average.
The King-Devick Test has given Academy leaders, Haynes and others high hopes that it will help solve the complex problem of concussions in athletes and prevent further more serious injuries.
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, while for an NFL retiree who is the same age the ratio is 1 in 53.
“The King-Devick Test provides doctors, athletic trainers, coaches, and even parents, with an easy tool to determine if the athlete should be removed from play to prevent a second head injury, which we now know can have more serious complications if the brain has not yet healed from the first concussion,” Haynes said.