Concussions – What are They and How to Test for a Concussion

Written by Andrew Dahl, CEO of NOXBOX

Concussions are a serious problem in the U.S., but they’re not well understood by the general public. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 7.8 million concussions occur annually in the United States alone, but it’s likely another 7.8 million go unreported. This is a conservative estimate, as there is no way to know how many more go unreported. Other sources place the figure at up 88% unreported and untreated concussions.

Concussions are a common brain injury, and they’re becoming more common. They can happen to anyone, from professional athletes to children playing sports or seniors injured in a fall, and the long-term effects can be serious.

A concussion can occur when someone suffers a blow to the head (or some other part of their body) that causes rapid rotation or rapid deacceleration of the head or neck. Some people have the misconception that concussions only occur in sports, but this is not the case: there are many ways to suffer a concussion. The causes of concussions range from team sports to industrial accidents, vehicle collisions and falls.

Because concussions are so common, it’s important to know how to test for concussion—and what treatment options are available if you or someone you know suffers from one.

Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, feeling faint, fatigue, nausea and vomiting (especially in children), sensitivity to light or sound, memory loss (particularly short-term), confusion/difficulty concentrating on tasks at hand (such as driving), inappropriate behavior (such as laughing at inappropriate moments), depression, blurred vision and ringing in the ears. Identifying the symptoms is the first step, but you may be wondering how to test if you have a concussion.

Concussions are a serious, often life-altering condition that can be difficult to diagnose. There are no real-time tests for concussion, so the only way to determine whether or not someone has suffered a concussion is through a physical exam. The exam typically consists of a history and physical examination, which may include questions about the event in question as well as neurological tests such as the finger-waving test and flashlight test.

Concussion testing can be difficult. However, a healthcare provider may perform a combination of the following assessments to determine if a person has sustained a concussion:

  1. Physical examination: A doctor will perform a physical exam, checking for signs of confusion, amnesia, loss of consciousness, and other symptoms.
  2. Neurocognitive testing: This can include tests of memory, attention, and reaction time to assess the function of the brain.
  3. Balance and coordination tests: The doctor may also assess the person’s balance and coordination, as these can be affected by a concussion.
  4. Imaging tests: Depending on the severity of the injury, the healthcare provider may order imaging tests, such as a CT scan or MRI, to rule out more serious brain injuries.

It’s important to seek medical attention if you suspect you or someone you know may have a concussion. A healthcare provider can make an accurate diagnosis and provide the appropriate treatment. For mild to mid-severity concussions, the general practice recommends rest and restricted activities until the concussion resolves, which can take weeks or even months. Monitoring the healing process becomes important.

If someone has suffered more severe concussive events, unconsciousness or an obvious head injury they are likely to be evacuated for care. For those who suffer from Stage 1 and 2 concussions, which are more subtle, they may evade detection during a sporting event, accident scene or combat, and concussion testing may be delayed until hours or days after the event.

This can also make them difficult to address because they often go undetected until symptoms become obvious or are exacerbated by a second concussion. Currently, the only way to truly know if you have suffered a concussion is by consulting with your doctor or health care professional.

While there is no definitive test for concussion yet available at point-of-need or real time, CT scans, EEGs and neurological testing can typically provide information about the severity of a person’s injury hours after the event occurs.

The long-term effects on a population-wide basis largely remain unknown because of the lack of research funding available for this issue. But some long-term effects can include Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A combination of physical, emotional and cognitive symptoms that can persist for months, sometimes a year or more after concussion. The economic impact of concussions is also significant—and growing rapidly as more people become aware of their severity as well as what treatments are available to help heal from them. This includes medical costs as well as lost wages due to time off work while recovering from the injury.

That’s why we are developing NOXBOX. It’s a diagnostic device intended to be the first real-time, point of need concussion test kit deployable at the scene, with results in under 5-minutes. NOXBOX is designed to function as a triage tool, complementing other EMT and ER procedures and protocols for a suspected concussion.

A single droplet of blood from the ear lobe or a clean fingertip provides enough sample. The NOXBOX test kit measures biomarkers specific to concussion at ultra-high sensitivity directly from the blood sample in less than 5 minutes. Following the easy, step-by-step directions for use, the results can be sent directly to any paired smart device. A digital medical record is also created and can be uploaded as needed.

NOXBOX principals intend to partner with larger, well-established diagnostics companies to bring this breakthrough technology to market.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not represent the views and opinions of RedCrow or its affiliates. The blog does not imply a recommendation or endorsement by Redcrow. RedCrow does not verify or establish the truth of the information obtained in the blog. These materials may not be relied upon for making any investment decision. Nothing in the blog is to be construed as a securities offering.

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