An App That Helps Coaches Diagnose Concussions

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor

Jay Alberts, PhD, BME, head of the Concussion Center at Cleveland Clinic (Ohio), developed an app to help diagnose concussions. The app compares assessments of balance, reaction time, memory, and vision after a hit to data collected for that player during the pre-season.

The Cleveland Clinic’s C3 App helps coaches make a judgment to determine if the player can return to play. By saving athletes’ baseline information for later use, doctors can spot concussions, tell how bad they are and how long it takes to fully recover and get back on the field.

Cleveland Clinic athletic trainers use the C3 app to conduct baseline assessments of motor and cognitive function in nearly 11,000 high school and college athletes who play contact sports across Northeast Ohio and in several locations throughout the United States.

FNF Coaches recently spoke about concussions with Dr. Alberts.

What are some steps football coaches can take to help prevent concussions in practice?

“It’s very similar to the steps a coach would take if he wanted to put in a new system. He has to think about planning a practice. One thing he can do is not concentrate all of the hitting during one time. Maybe the team does some conditioning, then tackling drills, then the coaches might do some education, some agility, then maybe a little more hitting. That way, the hitting is not concentrated into one period. There’s data about concussion research on animals that if you give an animal more frequent impact in a short duration, the amount of damage is significantly greater. There’s a bit of practice planning that goes into it. Use drills that transfer to a game. I don’t think the bull-in-the-ring drill is very helpful anymore. Practice with thud and don’t go live all the time.”

With everything that is happening during a game, can a coach really be responsible for assessing each player for a potential concussion?

“Every coach certainly dedicates practice time to special teams, the 2-minute drill, and other game situations. I encourage coaches to dedicate a segment of practice to the emergency preparedness plan. What are you going to do if your quarterback or running back is being evaluated for a concussion? That’s why you do fire drills. Practice it.”

From an equipment perspective, what measures can be taken to prevent concussions? 

“I haven’t seen anything on the market that has any really good scientific data that says it can prevent concussions. When it comes to equipment and helmets, it’s not going to prevent concussions. That said, an ill-fitting piece of equipment can contribute to a concussion. If it hasn’t been certified or if it’s been modified, that would put up a red flag. If you add something to a helmet as a modification, that’s a potential red flag.”

Are there measures that can be taken during strength training to limit the likelihood of suffering a concussion?

“We have a little bit of data showing that building neck strength reduces incidents of concussions. There’s no real downside to making sure your neck is strong, particularly for football. While the data is not conclusive, it points to a relationship between neck strength and a reduction in concussions. If there is a potential relationship between training and reducing concussions, I would advocate for that.”

Do you have a thought about this article that you would like to share? If you do, email managing editor Dan Guttenplan at Tweet us @fnfcoaches.