The New York Times published an article last Sunday profiling two new sensors that can help detect high impact hits to the head in athletes. It is one of many they have written helping to bring attention to the issue of brain injury in sports and highlights how technology is helping us diagnose and manage brain injuries. It also mentions something many are already getting incorrect: sensors worn on the body are not meant to be used to diagnose concussions.
These sensors count hits, and the Reebok CheckLight, a lightweight beanie lined with sensors, can measure just how hard these hits are, but there is no magic number of hits before brain damage occurs and there is no impact threshold required for concussion.
“There’s no magic number you can read on a device that means you have a concussion,” Dr. Robert C. Cantu told reporter Anne Eisenberg. “Many more factors besides forces are involved.”
This doesn’t mean that these sensors aren’t helpful tools in preventing and identifying brain injury when it occurs, however just like helmets that claim to prevent concussion, it likely won’t be long before many believe these sensors can diagnose a concussion. There are blood tests in development that may be able to objectively help diagnose concussion, but as of yet all we have to diagnose TBI are tools that aren’t foolproof.
Despite all of the advances in the past few years, it is important to remember that traumatic brain injury is still almost always identified by its symptoms, not the impact that creates the injury. Being educated on how to identify symptoms of TBI is still the best way to protect you and your family’s brains.