INDIANAPOLIS – The device has been used within the Verizon IndyCar Series from the last few years, but on Thursday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the series showed off their new device that could put them as the leading innovator in the entire sports world in concussion diagnosis.
INDYCAR drivers are now required to undergo a clinical eye-tracking computer test recently cleared by the Food and Drug Administration. It has been implemented as part of the sanctioning body’s concussion evaluation protocol.
All drivers competing in this month’s Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET/ABC/INDYCAR Radio Network) plus drivers in the Mazda Road to Indy program have been tested by the innovated system which is known as I-PAS. The device, which was created by Pittsburg-based Neuro Kinetics, Inc, is commonly referred to as the goggles test. It run high quality diagnostic tests to evaluate patients with symptoms of dizziness and/or balance disorders, especially those associated with medical conditions such as concussions, migraines, or BPPV.
The triggers for concussion evaluation begin with clinical symptoms noted by the responding physician at the scene of an on-track incident. Ear accelerometer data that meets or exceeds the threshold for a heightened index of suspicion of a concussion is another indication.
The baseline right now is around 50 g’s. Anything over that limit could trigger a concussion. In turn, meet the I-PAS. Dr. Terry Trammell told me on Thursday that this test is welcomed in the paddock as when he started in 1973, seeing a doctor wasn’t high on the list of the drivers’ minds when they were involved in a crash. You’ve heard the war stories. How many times have we heard of a driver that drove in the past with broken bones? How many drivers have said that they have had multiple concussions but we know that they’ve never missed a race? Trammell, says that drivers now are more receptive to seeing a doctor and in fact, seek this test out.
“This was a game changer,” Trammell said.
INDYCAR began administering I-PAS tests in preparation for the 2017 season and as part of the standard protocol, tested a handful of drivers subjected to force sufficient to potentially cause a concussion during the season. None of those drivers were found to be outside the normal parameters and were allowed to continue to compete.
“INDYCAR has taken a unique leadership role with regard to head health and in the safety of its drivers, their teams and their fans,” said J. Howard Schroeder, president and chief executive officer of Neuro Kinetics. “The collaboration with INDYCAR – and motorsports in general – has been without peer.”
The test can detect a concussion or not within eight minutes. So, even if you don’t show any symptoms after a crash, as some symptoms from concussions can not show up for a day or two after, even in that case, this new test will detect it within minutes. No more waiting.
While this test is just that, a test, it doesn’t make the final diagnosis. The doctors compare this to an EKG. It can detect or not detect a heart attack but that with other tests make the final diagnosis. Same here.
INDYCAR has come a long way in concussion prevention with the head rests and HANS device and other safety innovations, as the last recorded concussion came back in 2016 with James Hinchcliffe. But, if a suspicion is there, this new device can catch it.
It can also rule out concussions too. In March 2016, Will Power was involved in a practice crash on the streets of St. Pete on a Friday. He showed up and practice and even qualified his car a day later, but upon winning the pole that race weekend, he showed signs of a concussion. He was held out of the race and went to Miami for further testing. This I-PAS detected that not only did he not have a concussion, he had an inner ear infection. That’s how this whole process got started. Dr. Steve Olvey, a former INDYCAR medical director, conducted the tests in Miami and got the test passed along to the series itself.
Last year at Texas, a driver hit the outside wall at 50gs, then shot to the inside of the track and hit the inside wall, also at 50gs. He said that he felt fine other than the fact that he felt like he had drank a glass of wine. Enter the concussion protocol. This new device was used and not only did he not have a concussion, he was just dehydrated.
See, the importance of this test?
It’s certainly a game changer that other sports could use.