Appropriate management of mild traumatic brain injury has been a popular topic over the past few years.

Researchers have learned that although the events usually resolve with time, the effects may accumulate, causing memory deficits and early dementia.

Mild traumatic brain injury is relatively common and can result from any blow to the head.

Among athletes, the issue often relates to whether a concussion has occurred, and when the individual can safely resume a game or event.

To aid in this determination, researchers have developed a simple test of reaction time.

“Research has shown that reaction time is slower after a concussion — even as long as several days after other symptoms are gone,” said study author James T. Eckner, MD, of the University of Michigan Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in Ann Arbor.

“But the tests currently used to measure reaction time require computers and special software.”

Eckner and his colleagues developed a simple, inexpensive device to measure reaction time: a cylinder attached to a weighted disk. The examiner releases the device and the athlete catches it as soon as possible.

For the study, the researchers gave the test to 209 Division I college football, wrestling and women’s soccer athletes during their preseason physicals. Then any athlete who had a concussion diagnosed by a physician during the season took the test again within three days of the concussion.

Eight athletes had concussions during the study. Of those, seven of the athletes had a prolonged reaction time after the concussion compared to the preseason time. Catching the object took about 15 percent longer.

“Because of its simplicity and low cost, this test may work well with youth athletes, where there is limited access to computerized testing of reaction time,” Eckner said.

Source: American Academy of Neurology