A Virtual Reality (VR) headset could help doctors at football clubs diagnose concussion more accurately, researchers have claimed.
Recently we published an article discussing what precautions should be taken to help combat concussions in sport and how technology could be used. It seems like VR technology answered the call and is being applied to help diagnose the early signs brain injuries.
Concussions are one of the most common injuries that a sportsperson has to deal with, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that between 1.6 million and 3.8 million concussions occur each year.
They also estimate that between 5 and 10% of athletes will experience concussion throughout the sport season.
Football is the one of the most common sports that concussion occurs, with nearly 50% of players suffering with a concussion related injury throughout the season.
A new study run by Dr Michael Grey is trialling the £500 Oculus Rift system can quickly help medics detect subtle changes in players.
There have been increasing links that heading footballs can cause degenerative brain diseases, because of this, a team of VR developers have begun researching into possible programmes that could help spot early signs of brain damage.
The researchers suggest that VR’s sensors and tricking of the brain might be able to save young brains from needless brain damage.
The research is being headed by a joint team from the University and the University of East Anglia who say that VR’s unique ability to engage the senses whilst they are also given other instructions, could hint that a person’s brain might need a rest from consistent micro-trauma.
The FA released a statement saying that they take the issue “extremely seriously.”
The technology would be of most use when a club Doctor is forced to make decisions on the side-lines as to whether a player should be allowed to continue playing.
With our virtual reality balance test we’re having the brain do one thing and then challenge it by tilting the room and it’s only by doing this we see subtle changes that might not show up in a standard neurocognitive test.
“You will have players who say: ‘No I’m fine, I want to go on’. But you do this test – or one like it – I think those questions go away,” Dr Grey added.
West Bromwich Albion have been one of the main pioneers for this technology, this comes after Baggies legend Jeff Astle died just over fifteen years ago.
Nicknamed “The King” by his avid fans, the big striker died of brain trauma, with his Doctor saying that it was onset of heading big, heavy leather footballs.
Since his tragic death, Astle’s family have campaigned to increase the amount of research into the link between football and dementia.
After West Brom’s club Doctor, Dr Mark Gillet, was shown the VR and how it could help discover brain injuries, he said this: “I think we’re looking for functional tests that allow us to make a quick decision and technology such as that could potentially be very helpful.”
The introduction of this type of technology will be a welcome addition to the club Doctors, who at current use basic techniques to determine whether a player can continue to play or not.
VR would be used alongside other neurological tests, to give the medics a well-rounded picture of what could be wrong.
Former professional footballer and Sky Sports pundit Andy Gray has given the technology his approval.
He highlighted that the officiating bodies of football have no excuse to not implement the best possible technology available to help athletes.
Gray exclaimed: “What football has no excuse about is embracing modern technology. It has no excuse. It can’t say we don’t have the money, it’s awash with money.
Paying millions and millions of pounds to footballers and then worrying very little about their health.
It will be interesting to see if Virtual Reality will be able to make the difference that so many are expecting it to when it comes to diagnosing people with concussion.
If it does, then it could change the game of football for the better and dramatically decrease the rate of ex-players that suffer from neurological illnesses later in their life.