Feb 28, 2022
Eye Movements Could Indicate Athletes Who Suffered Concussions

Concussions continue to take up headspace in the minds of sports medicine professionals around the globe.

Such is the case for Anthony Kontos, research director of the Sports Medicine Concussion Program at the University of Pittsburgh,  and colleague Ethan Rossi, who has evidence suggesting eye movements can be indicators of sustained concussions.

According to a recent report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the two measured a type of microscopic eye movement in nearly 100 local teen- and young adult-aged athletes and discovered that those who had been recently diagnosed with a concussion had larger eye movements than those who had not.

The full results of their findings were published in the December issue of the Journal of Vision.

Below is an excerpt from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article.

The Pitt researchers used a new technology developed by a startup company in Boston to track and measure what are called “fixational saccades” — tiny involuntary eye movements while it is focusing on a particular object. “We’re not aware of them,” said Mr. Rossi. “Even when we think we’re carefully pointing our eyes and keeping them perfectly still, we still have these microsaccades.”

Participants were asked to focus on a picture of an eye in the center of a square. The study found that those who had been diagnosed with a concussion in the past 21 days had significantly larger fixational saccades than those who had not.

Because the test to measure eye movements is quick — only about 3 minutes — researchers are hopeful that it can one day be used as a practical diagnostic tool. Mr. Rossi and Mr. Kontos are already conducting follow-up studies to better understand the relationship between concussions and the size of fixational saccades.

“This is a first insight into a potential ocular motor deficit,” said Mr. Rossi. “There are a lot of possibilities to follow up.”

It is also possible that the tool could be used in the future as a mechanism for tracking progress in recovering from a concussion or measuring how effective various therapies are.

“All of these tools and many more out there, all have the potential to add to the pieces of the puzzle,” said Mr. Kontos. “The more we learn about the injury effects in the brain and how to evaluate them, the more we can help our patients get better.”

To read the full story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, click here. 

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