Jan 29, 2015
U.S. National Teams Implement King-Devick Test

When USA Football’s national teams took the field in February in preparation for a series of International Bowls versus Canada, their athletic trainers were armed with a simple concussion test they’ve never used before, but has been around for quite some time.

The reason for the shift in protocol was simple – they needed a quick, reliable, and scientifically validated tool they could count on to enhance and support real-time decisions in determining who is and isn’t suffering from a concussion.

For USA Football’s training staff, the King-Devick Test fit that description perfectly.



The King-Devick Test is a “remove-from-play” rapid number-naming ocular test that measures how well an athlete is able to follow and recognize a series of numbers on three cards before and after head trauma is suspected. A person’s eyes account for roughly 60% of the brain’s pathways, so using a test that takes that into consideration seems to make sense when screening for concussions.

The test itself, which was originally invented in the 1980’s to detect learning disabilities, is completely objective and takes under two minutes to administer.


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A pre-practice baseline was established with USA Football’s student-athletes as part of their initial physical when they arrived in Texas. That information was then stored to be compared later to their post-injury baseline, if necessary. If they read the numbers slower or had any errors in identifying them, they were removed from play and referred to a physician.

Dr. Patrick Kersey, Medical Director for USA Football, couldn’t have been more impressed with the implementation process and overall results.

“The implementation process was a total breeze,” Kersey said. “Very quick and easy to understand and administer, and can be done in almost any environment – optimal for the sports world.”

The idea of USA Football using the King-Devick Test began last summer when RFP Testing contacted their headquarters in Indiana. Dr. Kersey, who also spent time as a physician for the Indianapolis Colts, liked the idea right out of the gate.

“The actual science behind it and it being a potential valuable tool that fills a much needed void in the sideline management and evaluation of head injuries was my initial attraction,” Kersey stated. “This test can provide some near immediate and important information to the medical provider, athlete, and coaches about head injuries and help answer the challenging question of ‘does he/she have a concussion’ and ‘is it safe for them to return to play?'”

Kersey also pointed out the King-Devick Test would complement some of the more popular concussion tools that many organizations are already using, such as ImPACT.

“They (King-Devick and ImPACT) are two different tools that perform two different roles in the treatment of concussions,” Kersey explained. “They are presently the two best tools available that I’ve seen when it comes to the care of a possible concussed athlete. I’m very excited to add King-Devick to my clinical practice and sidelines.”

Sean Mele is RFP Testing’s Vice President of Sales and he agrees with Kersey that there’s a need to improve the protocol that many schools and teams adhere to on a daily basis.

“While many organizations are using ImPACT as a ‘return-to-play’ tool, that’s only one piece of the puzzle,” Mele said. “Properly diagnosing concussions when they happen is becoming increasingly important and the need for an effective ‘remove-from-play’ tool is grossly evident.”

“We’ve pretty much figured out how to get athletes back to playing after suffering a concussion,” he continued. “But we’re lacking on the other end of the spectrum – when to take them out. The King-Devick is a huge step in the right direction in that regard.”

It’s a step that USA Football’s trainers have taken, and will continue to take, so long as they’re charged with protecting the players that represent the red, white and blue.

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