Mayo to examine viability of robot for concussion assessment

The Mayo Clinic and Northern Arizona University in Phoenix are teaming up to test the viability of using a telemedicine robot to assess athletes with concussion-like symptoms in real time. For the partnership, announced last week, football players at the school will be examined during games by a neurology specialist via a specialized remote controlled camera system on wheels; the robot was available for use at NAU's opener against the University of Arizona last Friday.

The collaboration will last throughout the school's football season.

"Athletes at professional and collegiate levels have lobbied for access to neurologic expertise on the sideline," Bert Vargas, a neurologist at Mayo Clinic who will lead the research effort, said in a statement. "As we seek new and innovative ways to provide the highest level of concussion care and expertise, we hope that teleconcussion can meet this need and give athletes at all levels immediate access to concussion experts."

According to Mayo Clinic, the study will be the first to compare remote monitoring with face-to-face examinations as a means for identifying concussion symptoms in athletes.

"As nearly 60 percent of U.S. high schools do not have access to an athletic trainer, youth athletes, who are more susceptible to concussion and its after-effects, have the fewest safeguards in place to identify possible concussion signs and symptoms at the time of injury," Vargas said. "Teleconcussion is one way to bridge this gap regardless of when or where they may be playing."

The collaboration appears to be an extension of research published last fall by Vargas and others, in which the study's authors examined the use of telemedicine to assess a 15-year-old soccer player experiencing concussion-like symptoms. In calling telemedicine "ideal" for providing rapid access to a concussion specialist, the authors pointed to the value telemedicine has demonstrated in the evaluation of stroke and traumatic brain injury, an area focus for the military healthcare system.

To learn more:
- read the Mayo Clinic announcement

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