Computerized concussion testing – not such a good idea after all?

The Concussion Blog pointed the way to this excellent post by Matt Chaney, discussing the issues around computerized concussion testing, especially the ImPACT test that’s publicized by the NFL

His post discusses:

glaring faults in “baseline” testing of hot-selling ImPACT software employed by youth leagues, schools, colleges and pro sports. “The use of baseline neuropsychological testing in the management of sport-related concussion has gained widespread acceptance, largely in the absence of any evidence suggesting that it modifies risk for athletes,” Randolph observes.

Since 2005, Randolph is among reviewers for several journals who find unacceptable rates of false-positive and false-negative results for ImPACT, among popular brain assessments developed and marketed by academics and doctors associated with the NFL and benefiting from the league’s pervasive publicity machine.

“It is a major conflict of interest, scientifically irresponsible,” Randolph told ESPN The Magazine in 2007. “We are trying to get to what the real risks are of sports-related concussion, and you have to wonder why they (NFL experts) are promoting testing. Do they have an agenda to sell more ImPACTS?”

The marketing succeeds, with sales to a thousand schools and hundreds of colleges thus far, and media only increase exposure of ImPACT in the furor over concussions, especially in football.

Read the rest here (http://blog.4wallspublishing.com/2011/04/23/critics-evidence-debunk-concussion-testing-in-football.aspx) — it’s well worth the read.

What really worries me about computerized testing is what worries me about most computerized “solutions” to problems in life — they relieve you of the burden of having to really understand and think about what’s going on. A computer will give you a certain amount of information, which can be a good starting place. But it’s really up to you to figure out what — if anything — to do with the information. Most people forget (or never figure out) this important fact, and they think they can let the computer do everything for them.

On the playing field, “testing” (potentially) concussed athletes without paying very close attention — over the long term as well as the immediate short term — can have catastrophic consequences, if the test is not accurate (or fudged), and real issues go undetected and unaddressed. Again, the damage can happen over the long term, not only the immediate short term, as issues arise and become problematic beyond the playing season, even beyond school, and well into adult life — beyond any window of opportunity for ImPACT testing.

Lost income, underachievement, broken dreams, and shattered lives due to health issues, attentional issues, cognitive-behavioral problems (and more) arising from undiagnosed and untreated traumatic brain injury are something no computerized test will ever be able to measure.

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