A group of Mayo Clinic researchers argued in a new review that sports concussions — at least in ice hockey — can be diagnosed more accurately with objective tests, such as encephalography and the King-Devick eye test, than with the neurocognitive exams favored by many leagues at all levels of play. The researchers, including USA Hockey medical director Michael Stuart, MD, examined current and emerging methods of diagnosing concussions in ice hockey in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine. If they are correct, they may have an answer to the underreporting problem long plaguing sports concussion diagnosis and treatment. “Most currently used diagnostic tests are imprecise, require athlete cooperation, and are vulnerable to player and evaluator bias,” wrote the authors, led by Aynsely Smith, RN, Ph.D. “As objective diagnostic tools become available, the diagnosis will be less vulnerable to the subjective overlay of overly aggressive athletes and assertive coaches” who often try to hide the athletes’ concussion-like symptoms.
Smith and colleagues indicated that such tests are preferable to neurocognitive tests such as the Sports Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT) and ImPACT test, which the National Hockey League advises team physicians to use as part of its concussion protocol. (The league last year announced it would also pilot the King-Devick with 12 of its 30 teams, according to a Chicago Tribune report). Besides the NHL, most other pros, college, and high school teams also favor the established tests.
“A lot of them have put their careers on the line on these things,” Smith said. “Is it going to be an uphill battle? Yes … It won’t be very popular with a lot of people right away.”
Other members of Smith’s team include David Dodick, MD, who directs Mayo Clinic’s concussion program, and William Roberts, MD, former president of the American College of Sports Medicine. Stuart’s son Mark is an NHL defenseman.
by Ryan Basen Staff Writer, MedPage TodayJanuary 14, 2017
The USA Hockey Foundation funded part of the study.
The authors did not report conflicts of interest.