IndyCar has announced what its medical team believes will be a revolutionary addition to the way it diagnoses and handles concussions.
The new Neuro Kinetics I-PAS System is a battery of tests that long-time IndyCar safety consultant Dr. Terry Trammell says offers specialists the first opportunity to “correlate our clinical suspicions with an objective measure.”
The system measures ocular motor, eye motor and reaction times to test whether certain neural pathways have been altered or are behaving abnormally. While IndyCar has long worked to address concussion diagnosis and prevention, Trammell said that up to this point medical teams have still been dealing with a degree of subjectivity.
“We have an index of suspicion, as it were, that says, okay, this driver has a high index of suspicion for concussion. That’s roughly based on some G parameters. Everybody is a little bit different, but it would be very, very unusual, and we have not seen, a concussion with head Gs of less than 50Gs. Anything over 80 is worrisome,” he said.
“In those cases where a driver may not exhibit clinical findings of a concussion immediately, we look to other ways to test the driver to see if there’s something different that will pick up those subtle changes.
“One of the classic things has been impact, which is a test that’s taken on a computer that the driver does during physicals pre-season. Then if they have an event like this, we can repeat the impact test and see if it’s changed. But we’re looking for a change.
“The best analogy I can give you where this has changed the game is compare this to cardiology. The stethoscope was invented in 1860, and that allowed a physician to actually listen or osculate the chest to hear the heartbeat and hear rhythms of the heart, so on and so forth. A number of years later, like 1903, the first EKG machine was invented, won the Nobel Prize in 1924. That was a game-changer for cardiology. It gave an objective test that allowed the physician to look at a tracing, a graph, and correlate that with clinical findings for heart disease, heart attack.”
I-Pass test subjects wear a pair of goggles linked to a laptop, and allows the tester to measure infinitesimally small changes in the subject’s eye muscles while the test is taking place. The data generated from the test, coupled with the clinical exam, allows the doctor to make a final diagnosis.
“Back to the EKG analogy, we now actually have numerical data that isn’t dependent on the subject’s behavior, providing they can cooperate with the test,” Trammel said. “They can’t game it. There’s nothing you can do to change your physiology, it just is. That’s the real value. It’s very subtle.
“Where this becomes the real game-changer is we have somebody that has a fall on Sunday, Monday they call up and say, I don’t feel quite right, something’s not the way it was on Saturday. They may not have signs of a clinical concussion based on what we’ve used in the past to make that diagnosis because the changes are subtle. This just gives us a battery of more specific tests to use in our clinical evaluation.”