Concussion? There’s an app for that

Athletes, coaches and parents can now determine if someone may have a concussion with a new phone app created by a UNC alumnus and a UNC faculty member.

Jason Mihalik, an assistant professor of Exercise and Sports Science in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, and Gerard Gioia ’84 of the Children’s National Medical Center and George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., co-authored the smartphone app. The app is called the Concussion Recognition and Response App. Gioia is the app’s primary creator. The two also created a more advanced app for athletic trainers and physicians, which is called the Concussion Assessment and Response (CARE) Sport app. Mihalik is the primary author for CARE.

“We see as many as 60 percent of concussions go unreported or undiagnosed,” Mihalik said. “This app will really help to provide a systematic diagnostic approach to that injury, and we’re hopeful that it will capture more diagnoses of concussions so that kids can be managed properly.”

The Concussion Recognition and Response App, available for $3.99 on iTunes and Android Market, is designed to be easy for coaches and parents to use. It was recently chosen as a finalist for best medical app in the national MediaPost Appy award competition.

Using a checklist of symptoms like dizziness and memory problems, the app guides users through a series of questions to evaluate whether someone has suffered a concussion. “It doesn’t provide a diagnosis,” Mihalik said. “It just provides some feedback to the parent to say ‘in light of the things that you’ve entered into the system, we suspect that there may be a concussion and it’s probably in your best interest to remove your child from participation and refer them to their physician.’”

Removing concussed athletes from activity can be critical. A second impact after an initial head injury can often bring catastrophic consequences. So, it’s a comfort to parents such as LaRae Bennett, whose teenage son is a hockey goalie, to have the app at the ready on her smartphone.

“If we could download that app and go through some questions to get a real quick sense of where we need to be and what actions we need to take next, that gives a real sense of being able to be in control in a moment when you might be in panic,” Bennett said.

Mihalik and Gioia think that the app will benefit a much larger group than just athletes, their coaches and parents.

“This is not just an application for kids that play sports,” said Karen Earp, as her 9 year-old daughter climbed on playground equipment behind her. “This is an application for anybody and everybody to use whether you play sports, whether you play on a playground, ride your bike or are just outside having fun.”

The apps are published by PAR, Inc.

Read more from an Endeavors magazine article.

Published March 5, 2012.