Cleveland Clinic Unveils an App to Gauge Student Athlete Concussions

Aug 21, 2017

The new Cleveland Clinic app not only measures cognitive skills, but also gauges balance by using iPads tucked into a waistband on student athletes.
Credit KABIR BHATIA / WKSU

The Cleveland Clinic has unveiled a new app to help coaches determine whether student athletes are ready to return to the field after taking a hit.

The app has been in development for seven years and is being rolled out to nearly four-dozen participating school districts and colleges in Ohio. Each player takes a series of diagnostic tests at the beginning of the season to gauge reaction time and coordination. Those results are then stored. If an athlete takes a hit, they must re-take the tests to see if their cognitive abilities have suffered.

Jason Cruickshank, a senior athletic trainer with the clinic, says there are a number of tests in the app.

“We measure simple things like connecting the dots. A simple using of manipulating a pen to connect the dots in sequence, and knowing that sequence. And then we make that a little bit harder with a different sequence.”

Cruickshank says some of the tests use the iPad’s on-board accelerometers and gyroscopes.

“And it measures their balance and their sway by putting the iPad into a belt and wrapping it around their waist. Stances will be performed on hard ground as well as on a foam surface. That foam surface really makes it more challenging because now they have to rely more on their actual muscles to keep their balance, and less on that firm ground, to give them that feedback.”

Cruickshank adds that even though the app is a helpful diagnostic tool, some athletic officials may choose to rely on other tests since the sidelines are filled with distractions such as the noise from the crowd and freezing weather.