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Allegheny Health Network to use iPad app for concussion diagnosis

| Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, 12:04 a.m.
JC Schisler | Tribune-Review
Riverhounds soccer player Sterling Flunder performs a “Choice Reaction Time” test on an iPad on Friday, Sept. 20, 2013. The application guides participants through a series of balance tests to assess whether the user has a concussion
JC Schisler | Tribune-Review
Allegheny Health Network Sports Medicine senior athletic trainer Karen Richards (right) guides Riverhounds player Sterling Flunder through an optical test using an iPad, as athletic trainer Missy Bauer observes the procedure on Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, in Highmark Stadium in the South Side.
JC Schisler | Tribune-Review
Athletic trainer Missy Bauer, who works at the Allegheny Health Network Sports Medicine and Concussion Clinic, guides Riverhounds soccer player Sterling Flunder through a series of balance tests during a demonstration of the C3 Logix mobile technology on Friday, Sept. 20, 2013.

Allegheny Health Network announced on Friday that it plans to offer new software to help diagnose and treat potential concussions in athletes in 29 counties in Western Pennsylvania.

C3 Logix assesses symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury by gauging reaction time, memory, motor function, vision and balance through an iPad application. When the tablet is strapped to a healthy patient's back, the app collects data about posture and stability that can be compared to tests performed after a suspected concussion.

The Cleveland Clinic assessed 7,000 students from more than 50 schools in northeastern Ohio with the system. Trainers with Robert Morris University and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds pro soccer team are bringing it to their athletes this fall.

Guy Montecalvo, athletic director of Canon-McMillan School District, attended a demonstration of the software months ago. Canon-McMillan High School will be among the first five high schools to pilot C3 Logix at no cost this year. Allegheny Health Network plans to expand the system to all 14 school districts for which it provides athletic training before offering it across the region.

“When I started in 1980, you just didn't see that many concussions,” Montecalvo said. “Kids are stronger and faster, and they hit so much harder now. Years ago, we'd say, ‘Shake it off; get back in there.' We didn't know. That's something no one would be caught dead saying today.”

Student athletes at West Allegheny School District are subjected to a similar battery of tests through UPMC's ImPACT software, developed by the health network's Sports Concussion Program 15 years ago.

Dr. Michael “Micky” Collins, the program's executive director, said he supports the research and development of sideline diagnostic tools but worries about the lack of published research supporting C3 Logix or iComet Technologies, a Cleveland Clinic Innovations spinoff that developed the software.

UPMC and Allegheny Health Network are rivals in the Pittsburgh health care market.

“Anytime you put a tool out there, you want to make sure the science is there to support it,” Collins said. “You don't just figure it out as you go when you're dealing with kids with potential brain injuries.”

Chris Rose, head athletic trainer at Shady Side Academy, uses ImPACT. The baseline tests offer a less subjective look at how student athletes are progressing through treatment, he said.

“The technology picks up on subtleties we, as trainers, may miss,” he said. “I can see how adding the balance tests would be helpful in terms of gathering that hard data.”

West Allegheny Athletic Director Dave McBain said his trainers blend the quantitative analysis provided by technology with their own cognitive analysis. Students must be cleared by a qualified medical professional to return to play.

“I had concussions,” he said. “The way we manage and treat a student is totally different now. I tell my kids, ‘This is just high school. Your whole life doesn't hinge on this play, this goal, this season.' We want them to stay healthy, so anything that can help with that works for us.”

Allegheny Health Network, the former West Penn Allegheny Health System, is licensing the software from iComet Technologies.

Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5815 or mharris@tribweb.com.

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