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ImPACT, King-Devick Test Announce Concussion-Management Partnership

Two major developers of concussion-management tools have announced a partnership that could expand the way youth-athletes are evaluated for head injuries.

ImPACT Applications Inc., the developer of the ImPACT neurocognitive test, and the maker of the King-Devick Test have partnered to "promote a multidimensional approach to assessing concussions in athletes," according the announcement from both organizations last week.  

I've written about both tests in the past, but as a brief refresher:

  • The ImPACT test aims to guide return-to-play decisions by measuring a student-athlete's "baseline" during the preseason of his or her sport. Once suspected of a concussion, the student-athlete will take the same ImPACT test to gauge how far off he or she is from his or her normal brain activity. (The more the baseline/post-injury results vary, the more likely it is that he or she has a concussion.)
  • The King-Devick Test, meanwhile, is a concussion-management tool that can help guide remove-from- or return-to-play decisions right on the sideline. It's a two-minute exercise that tracks subtle vision problems in athletes suspected of having concussions. Student-athletes read single digit numbers either on test cards or on an iPad, and if they struggle focusing on specifics, there's an increased chance that they're suffering some type of brain impairment. (See an example of the test here.)

Neither one of these tests is necessarily 100 percent accurate. In fact, a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Athletic Training found ImPACT tests to misidentify healthy participants in certain circumstances up to 46 percent of the time. (I'll be writing about more research about the reliability of ImPACT tests later this week, so stay tuned.)

That potential unreliability is why three major sets of sports-related concussion guidelines and position statements released earlier this year all concluded that no single test can determine whether a concussion has occurred.  

But that's exactly what makes this new partnership between ImPACT and the King-Devick Test so intriguing.

"ImPACT concurs with the growing body of research that suggests one single tool cannot screen all the ways that a concussion may present, but a combination of neurocognitive, ocular, and vestibular screening at the sidelines can effectively help determine removal from play," said Michael Wahlster, chief executive officer of ImPACT," in a statement. "ImPACT has developed a partnership with K-D Test to make it easier for these best-in-class tools to be utilized together across the continuum of concussion management."

Essentially, there's no harm in subjecting student-athletes to multiple tests when determining whether they have a concussion or whether they've fully recovered from a concussion. Concussion-management decisions are like teacher evaluations in that way: The more measures you can evaluate, the merrier.

Since it's always better to play it safe rather than sorry with the developing brains of youth-athletes, it bears watching how this ImPACT/King-Devick Test partnership affects middle and high schools' usage of both products.

Schools that are current ImPACT customers can choose between three K-D Test packages to add to their current concussion-management program. Schools that aren't already customers of ImPACT will be able to purchase both ImPACT and K-D Test packages at once.

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