EyeProtectBrain is  a collaboration by the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) and the Southeastern Congress of Optometry (SECO).  This new public health program has been launched to identify undiagnosed concussions in sports at all levels—from elementary school through professional players.

Why do we need this program?

  • It is estimated that 1.6 to 3.8 million sports-related mild traumatic brain injuries occur every year with the vast majority being concussions.
  • In the school-year 2011-2012, the National Federation of State High School Associations reports that there were 7,692,520 students participating in athletics. The likelihood of an athlete in a contact sport experiencing a concussion is as high as 20% per season.
  • The importance of mild closed head injury is underscored by the frequent occurrence of post-concussion syndrome and the potential for devastating long-term symptoms, disability, and pathologic changes resembling those of Alzheimer disease.

Concussions cause damage to many parts of the brain.  Therefore, the symptoms of concussion are numerous, and vary significantly from individual to individual.  However, the ability to execute saccadic eye movements is almost always impaired.  Saccadic eye movements are very complex and require coordination across a wide network of anatomical structures in the brain.  Concussions have immediate impact on the brain’s networking skills.  The result is decreased performance on tests of saccadic eye movements, especially subjective procedures that require a verbal response from the athlete.

The King-Devick Test has been used to evaluate the eye movement skills of children, especially those with learning and reading problems.  Now, it can be used on the sidelines of sports events to make return-to-game decisions!  A decrease in performance from a baseline measurement is a very strong indicator that the athlete has suffered a concussion and should not be allowed to return to the playing field until evaluated by a neurologist.

The King-Devick Test is easy to administer and does not require a medical professional; it can be administered by coaches, trainers, and even parents.  It is quick; decisions can be made in under 5-minutes.  It is valid; research has proven its ability to identify athletes who had a meaningful head injury.

Once again, optometrists change lives.  With support from COVD and SECO, the EyeProtectBrain Force will make better identification of concussion in athletes a reality.

Here is more information about traumatic brain injury and concussions. 

Find a doctor that can help you tackle this public health problem in your community.