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King-Devick Test: MomsTEAM Has Championed From The Start

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In a  March 11, 2015  "Well" blog  New York Times health reporter, Gretchen Reynolds, reported on a new study by NYU researchers, including Laura Balcer, a member of MomsTEAM Institute's Board of Advisors, about the use of a simple, rapid, and inexpensive visual test called King-Devick as a sideline screen to help identify athletes as young as five with possible concussion so they can be immediately removed from play.

It was nice to see Ms. Reynolds jump on the K-D bandwagon, and especially gratifying because MomsTEAM has been reporting on and charting the progress of K-D since the very first 2011 study by Dr. Balcer - then at the University of Pennsylvania - of MMA (mixed martial arts) fighters showed that the test had promise in rapidly identifying athletes with concussion.*

Damon Glass administering King-Devick test

Every single K-D study conducted since then, a number by Dr. Balcer and her colleagues, and some by researchers in New Zealand involving rugby players, has shown that K-D can identify up to 75% of concussed athletes, and, when used in combination with other validated sideline screens, such as the Standardized Assessment of Concussion (SAC), is able to identify athletes subsequently clinically diagnosed with concussion with 100% accuracy. (Can't do any better than that!)

In 2012, as I getting ready to film "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer," and was working with a group of world-class concussion experts on developing a concussion risk management program for the Newcastle, Oklahoma high school football program which we now call The Six Pillars,® I asked King-Devick to donate flashcards for all 160 players in the program.  I was pleased that the company agreed, and was excited that we were able to feature the school's certified athletic trainer, Damon Glass, demonstrating K-D on the football sideline in the documentary. (see photo at right)

MomsTEAM saw promise in the test when it first learned about K-D back in 2011, and we couldn't be more thrilled for Steve Devick and his company today, as study after peer-reviewed study has shown it fullfilling the promise we saw from the get-go: that a simple, rapid test that anyone, not just a medical professional, could use to identify on the sports sideline an athlete who likely suffered a concussion so that they could be removed from play and referred for a complete examination by a clinician to make a formal concussion diagnosis.

As MomsTEAM Institute works to launch its SmartTeamTM program around the country this fall, we are evaluating a number of emerging sideline concussion screening tools, just as we did with King-Devick for our documentary in 2012, and we hope to include King-Devick to provide additional data which researchers can use to evaluate its use by parent volunteers at the youth level with concussion education and training as a simple and easy to use tool t o identify athletes to remove from play for further evaluation, when trained medical professionals, such as certified athletic trainers, are unavailable.  Watch this space.

April 1, 2015 update:

The March 31, 2015 NBC Nightly News featured a report on the King-Devick test.  One important caveat, however: while the segment which appeared on air is accurate, the text accompanying the video on NBC's website needs to viewed with a clarification: in asserting that King-Devick is a "reliable way to quickly diagnose a concussion" (emphasis supplied), it may mislead parents and coaches into thinking that they can use the test to make a clinical diagnosis that an athlete has suffered a concussion. They can't and they shouldn't. The test is a remove-from-play tool, not one which allows non-medical personal to actually diagnose concussion. That diagnosis can only be performed by a health care professional with appropriate training and expertise in diagnosing and managing sport-related concussion. 

* July 12, 2015 update:  In a July 10, 2015 blog post for Huffington Post, sports journalist Ken Reed also touted the King-Devick test, suggesting that it be used by every high school in the country. Interestingly, Reed makes no mention of the fact that the Smartest Team and MomsTEAM have been making exactly that recommendation for three years, thereby suggesting to readers that he was the first to do so. Even more interesting is the fact that Huff Po declined to run a blog post I submitted several months ago advocating exactly the same thing.    


King-Devick article chronology 

February 8, 2011: King-Devick Test Promises More Rapid, Reliable Sideline Screening for Concussions (mixed martial arts fighters)

August 31, 2011: New Study Confirms Value of King-Devick Test in Sideline Assessment of Concussion (college athletes)

June 15, 2012 King-Devick Test Effective Sideline Concussion Screening Tool, New Study Finds (rugby)

August 26, 2012: King-Devick Testing Kits For Chicago Schools: Just One Tool In Concussion Tool Box (football)

June 11, 2013: King-Devick Test: An Important Part of Sideline Concussion Screening Battery

August 23, 2013: MomsTEAM Institute's documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer" premieres on PBS; prominently features King-Devick Test. 

February 14, 2014: King-Devick: New Screening Tool May Dramatically Improve Concussion Detection Rate on Sports Sideline (rugby)

February 23, 2014: More Evidence That King-Devick Test May Help Identify Concussed Athletes On Sports Sideline (college men's and women's soccer, women's lacrosse)

Brooke de Lench is the Founding Executive Director of MomsTEAM Youth Sports Safety Institute, a 501(c)(3) sports safety watchdog, education, research, and advocacy organization, Founder and Publisher of MomsTEAM.com, director of The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer (PBS), and author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (HarperCollins).