But concussion assessment apps vary widely,
researchers found, so it's important for users to be able to pick
the best one for their purposes.
"Although not essential to the recognition and management of a
concussion, mobile apps provide a new dimension in concussion
management for medically trained professionals," coauthors Hopin Lee
of Neuroscience Research Australia in Sydney and Osman Ahmed of The
FA Centre for Disability Football Research in Staffordshire, UK,
told Reuters Health in a joint email.
"However for the public, it is important that these apps are not
seen as a ‘do-it-yourself' solution and that the information is used
to guide a player with a suspected concussion to seek urgent medical
attention," they wrote.
They collaborated on the review at the University of Otago in New
There are approximately 40,000 medical and healthcare apps available
for smartphones or tablets, the authors write. For this review, they
downloaded 18 English-language apps intended to help users recognize
and assess concussions. Ten were available for Android and 16 for
iOS, and 13 were free to download.
The researchers compared the information in each app to an
international concussion diagnosis standard called the Sport
Concussion Assessment Tool 2.
They ranked each app designed to be used by people other than
medical professionals in three areas that are important markers of
concussion: symptoms, memory function and balance. In each area, a
score of zero meant there was no information and a score of 2 meant
the necessary information was totally complete.
Some apps were designed specifically according to the SCAT2
standard, and therefore scored the highest.
An app called simply "Concussion," version 1.2.0, also scored quite
high, with full marks for symptoms and memory function assessment,
according to findings published in the British Journal of Sports
However, two of the apps scored zeros across the board.
"I think apps can be a valuable addition to the tools a sports
medicine provider has to use," said Dr. Kimberly G. Harmon, who
specializes in sports medicine at the University of Washington in
Harmon was not involved in the review, but has used mobile apps to
manage and track concussions.
"We use a mobile app already at our institution and have found it to
be quite helpful," she told Reuters Health by email. "It needs to be
used as part of the bigger picture in conjunction with history and
[to top of second column]
Harmon did not recommend any specific apps, but said she does
agree with a consumer checklist the review authors created.
According to the checklist, people who don't work in medicine but
may need one of these apps, like parents or coaches, should make
sure the app they choose was intended for them, not for medical
professionals. Users should also look for an endorsement from a
recognized agency or organization, like the Concussion in Sport
Group, an international group of concussion experts.
The checklist also recommends consumers choose apps that reference a
best practice standard, have a clear way to contact the producer if
support is needed and do not contain advertising or commercial
"The authors mention that they did not test the usability of these
apps, and I think that is a point that requires additional emphasis
in the discussion," Dr. Amy K. Wagner told Reuters Health in an
Wagner studies brain injuries at the University of Pittsburgh in
Pennsylvania and was not involved in the new review.
It's important to know how easy the apps are to use, and if people
use them correctly, as well as what information the apps contain,
"Another point is that it is hard to tell from this report if any of
these apps had any language to inform consumers, particularly
non-medical consumers, about what to do if a concussion is
suspected," she said. If it seems like an athlete has suffered a
concussion, he or she should stop playing immediately and seek
medical attention, but it's not clear if the apps remind people of
Though she uses apps and believes they can be useful for parents,
coaches and schools, Harmon noted that apps have limitations.
Apps "don't replace evaluation by a medical professional trained in
the evaluation and management of concussion," she said.
British Journal of Sports Medicine,
online March 25, 2014.
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