ALTOONA, BLAIR COUNTY - Most kids and teens recover quickly from a sports-related concussion, but side effects from brain injuries can linger. A local eye doctor now offers a new test that can lead to quick diagnosis and treatment of those issues.
A couple of years ago, Josh Cobler suffered a concussion when he took an elbow to the head, during a junior high basketball game. A few months later, doctors cleared him to return to sports, but Josh started to get frequent headaches and developed vision problems.
The 16-year-old Hollidaysburg student says, "I was seeing objects that weren't actually where they were, like I would see an object over here, but it would actually be over on the other side, far away from it."
It affected his school work, as well as his sports activities, but specialists couldn't figure out what was wrong.
"I had no idea," he says. "I went everywhere, trying to get an answer, and I finally did here, at Michelle Barnes Optometry.
The family's optometrist Dr. Michelle Barnes had just received a new eye movement test to detect concussions and possible silent concussions.
She and Josh demonstrate the King-Devich Test, which takes less than 3 mintues. "Just read across just like you would if you were reading in a book," Dr. Barnes says to Josh, "and try to read the numbers out loud, if you can without making a mistake."
The test requires Josh to read single-digit numbers displayed on cards. It becomes progressively more difficult on successive pages.
Since a concussion can affect the way the brain processes signals from the eye, the speed at which Josh reads the numbers can determine whether he has neurological damage from a concussion.
Now Josh speeds right through. During his first test, he was nearly three times as slow as the normal rate for someone his age, not unusual for someone with lingering problems after a concussion.
Dr. Barnes says patients still suffering from the effects of a head injury react the same way. "I can see the discomfort on their faces," she says. "They're trying to work, you see a lot of facial gesticulations, either squinting or pulling the eye, the brow back, because they're trying to clear the image they're looking at."
The optometrist prescribed vision therapy for Josh and his vision is back 100-percent, and so is his tennis.
"My tennis team won the district championships this year, " he says, smiling.
Dr Barnes says a recent Mayo Clinic study found the King-Devich Test was 100 percent accurate in diagnosing concussion. She's considering adding it to her routine exams especially since she shees a lot of students for back to school exams. That would give her a baseline, in case one of her patients later suffers a head trauma.