No Objective Evaluation for Concussion?

No Objective Evaluation for Concussion?

Why It Was Hard to Read the Recent New York Times Article about No Objective Concussion Evaluation
By Balraj Dhillon, BSc. Kin, Marketing & Business Development Manager, HealthTech Connex Inc.
January 27, 2023

As a kinesiologist who works daily to change concussion evaluation, I found it frustrating to read the recent article in the New York Times, which told readers that there is no objective evaluation for concussion. What?! While I understand that this has been the historic challenge, it was tough to read this in such a high-profile and influential newspaper, because at HealthTech Connex we are working so hard to get an objective solution out there. Clearly, we need to do more to raise awareness about the NeuroCatch® Platform.

NeuroCatch® provides a unique solution for the objective and sensitive assessment and management of brain injuries, such as concussions. As a medical-grade technology grounded in over 25 years of global leading science, NeuroCatch® is now used by many people to evaluate cognitive brain function at the point of care in minutes. Top medical centers around North America, like the Mayo Clinic, have used NeuroCatch® and earlier prototypes for nearly a decade. The technology is used to track recovery and improve outcomes through precision-based treatment decisions. It is also used for critical return-to-play decisions following a concussion (Fickling et al, 2019). Yet, our healthcare is still being hampered by slow-changing perspectives that there is no objective way to evaluate concussion. Frustrating.

In the recent New York Times article, a question was posed by neurosurgeon Dr. Uzma Samadani, who asked, “Is it possible to make an objective assessment of someone’s total capacity of brain function on the sideline rapidly? It’s very difficult.” Dr. Ryan D’Arcy, HealthTech Connex co-founder who leads the science behind NeuroCatch®, agrees that it’s very difficult, but not impossible. “We started working on this problem back in the mid-90s, and it has been years of published science to first validate the underlying concepts and then implement them as a novel technology that has since been deployed not only for concussion but also across other brain injuries and diseases.” The challenge is ours, and we will continue to reach out to experts like Dr. Samadani with more and more leading scientific evidence along with rapidly growing practical applications across an expanding array of settings including sports organizations, private health, and acute outpatient care centers.

The article further states, “Concussions can cause much subtler symptoms, including headaches, sluggishness and difficulty sleeping, some of which are not present immediately after a trauma. The absence of obvious symptoms makes the type of instant diagnosis difficult without the adoption of updated tools that can measure concussion symptoms with a higher degree of specificity.” Agreed. Indeed, we have published leading scientific studies showing that this can result even from undiagnosed concussive injuries, called sub-concussive impacts (Fickling et al. 2021). The detection of sub-concussive impairments demonstrated the sensitivity of NeuroCatch® to the accumulation of damage over time. While understandably worrisome, this sensitivity has since enabled the identification of effective interventions that are scaling up in our own clinic and throughout our partner networks. You can’t treat what you can’t measure. So, while this was worrisome at first, it is actually activating new research studies on novel treatments that help with the impairments detected by NeuroCatch®.

The New York Times article goes on to say, “Experts in brain injuries say that there remains no objective tool to identify a concussion. Elite athletes, even with diminished mobility, can often handle the physical tests designed to gauge their balance and motor skills.” This is the great thing about physiology: it is truly objective. NeuroCatch® directly measures neuro-physiological responses for our most important cognitive brain processing abilities. The good news is: brain responses cannot be subjectively influenced and are therefore not error-prone or susceptible to “user override" in order to ignore the potential damage of concussion. Rather, much like measuring blood pressure, NeuroCatch® effectively delivers our brain’s vital signs to ensure optimal brain health.

Being able to provide an objective brain vital sign evaluation of cognitive function – quickly, easily, and anywhere – is allowing us and others to quickly change the trajectory of concussion care. Now we must succeed in getting the word out, so that the New York Times of the world have an optimistic and positive story to tell when it comes to concussion and brain health.


For information regarding subconcussive changes in youth football players, see our research study published in Brain Communications here.