The Stanford Concussion and Brain Performance Center is at the cutting edge of concussion diagnosis and rehabilitation, with eye-tracking technology and a treatment protocol combining exercise and recovery. Scott Anderson and the rest of Stanford’s Athletic Department worked closely with Jamshid Ghajar, clinical professor of neurosurgery and director of the Center, to develop a protocol for diagnosis and treatment of student athletes. Stanford athletes who think they may have a concussion immediately take the eye-tracking test in just 30 seconds, in which they watch a small circle move on a screen while the device monitors their eye movement. The device can also pick up on sleep deprivation and attention-deficit disorder. After the eye test, athletes suspected of having a concussion undergo two additional series of tests. One series of tests evaluates functioning of the vestibular system, which monitors orientation of the body with respect to gravity and can be impaired by damage to the inner ear. These tests involve balancing exercises such as reading from a paper while walking forward. Another series of tests consists of more traditional exercises that evaluate memory and cognitive function, testing athletes’ ability to recite sequences backwards and identify their location and the date.
The combination of these tests with the eye-tracking technology creates a particularly exhaustive approach to diagnosis. Following diagnosis, Stanford immediately exercises concussed athletes on a cardio-based exercise machine in order to reestablish circadian rhythms and restore sleep cycles that aid healing. Ghajar said that long periods of rest actually impede recovery. Ghajar says that 90 percent of concussion cases treated at the Center recover within a week. Athletes recover even sooner, he said, often in three to four days.