Researchers at Notre Dame have developed an innovative tablet-based tool that makes concussion testing quicker and easier. The program analyzes an athlete’s speech before and after a contest, looking for traumatic brain injuries (TBI) indicators, such as distorted vowels, hyper nasality and imprecise consonants.“This project is a great example of how mobile computing and sensing technologies can transform health care,” said Christian Poellabauer, Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering. “More important, because almost 90 percent of concussions go unrecognized, this technology offers tremendous potential to reduce the impact of concussive and subconcussive hits to the head.” Research continues to come out that demonstrates the devastating long-term effects concussions have on the brain. And with the exception of Kevin Ware’s gruesome compound leg fracture, concussions are the most talked about injury in sports circles. The issue has caused a ripple effect throughout the sports world. The NFL has enacted several rule changes to limit the occurrence of concussions, most recently making it illegal for running backs to initiate contact with the crown of their helmet. Sports-medicine specialists and brain-injury advocates are also calling for major changes to how hockey is played following news that the sport accounted for 44% of the sports-related brain injuries among Canadian youths. The numbers are frightening, and parents have become hesitant to allow their children to participate in contact sports. Those who do play contact sports are undergoing baseline tests. According to the CDC, baseline tests are used to assess an athlete’s balance and brain function (including learning and memory skills, ability to pay attention or concentrate, and how quickly he or she thinks and solve problems), as well as for the presence of any concussion symptoms. If an athlete performs poorly on the test as compared to the baseline, he or she will be kept off the playing field. Brain function is typically tested using questionnaires and reaction tests at the beginning of the season. If and when an athlete has a suspected concussion, he or she is tested again and the results are compared. However some concussion experts have criticized this type of testing, saying athletes have come up with ways to game the test. One of the major advantages of Notre Dame’s tablet-based test is the low probability of manipulation. Other concussion tests are sometimes subject to deception or bias from the athletes who want to get back into the game. Another advantage is that the testing is portable, making it easy to test athletes immediately after a suspected injury. Researchers tested the program during the 2012 Notre Dame Bengal Bouts, an annual student boxing tournament. The team also used tablet versions of the Axon Sports Computerized Cognitive Assessment Tool (CCAT), the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 2 (SCAT2).They confirmed nine concussions (out of 125 participants) using the speech-based test. Check out this video of the program in action!