NYU researchers roll out ResearchKit app as part of concussion-monitoring study

Concussion Tracker app--Courtesy of NYU Langone Medical Center

Researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center have made available to the public an Apple ResearchKit-based app to monitor concussion symptoms over the 6 weeks after an initial diagnosis. The app is freely available for both the iPhone and the Apple Watch. In addition to participants gleaned online, the study will also include 100 adult participants diagnosed with concussions recruited via the hospital's concussion center.

Concussions are currently at the center of a vigorous public debate around the role of contact sports in brain damage. The current thinking is that repeat concussions that occur prior to the brain healing from previous injury could cause permanent damage.

The concussion app requires study participants to complete three daily tasks over a 6-week period. These include a 5-question symptom survey that addresses concussion-related problems such as balance issues, blurred vision and drowsiness; a 6-minute walk test; and questions to measure abilities of concentration.

"Using new technologies, we can now evaluate a potentially large percentage of this population across the country to gain daily insights about concussion, and employ data in ways we previously could not, said Dr. Laura Balcer, co-director of NYU Langone's Concussion Center, and co-principal investigator of the study, in a statement. "For instance, this data could enable us to understand daily symptom profiles for patients for the first time."

More than four million Americans experience concussion every year. This app isn't intended to diagnose or treat concussion, but simply to offer broad-based population surveillance of persistent symptoms. It uses Apple's ResearchKit software framework, which researchers expect will enable more frequent and accurate data gathering than otherwise possible. Ultimately, the app could become part of clinical care for concussion patients.

The data for the subset of 100 NYU Langone concussion patients will receive a borrowed iPhone or Apple Watch to participate in the study. Their data will be stored as part of that institutions patient electronic health record system--which will allow them to view their own data.

"By tracking these measurements among concussion patients on a daily basis, instead of every one to two weeks at their appointments, this app and the related research project will let us assess current treatment protocols in ways not before possible, including greater understanding of how a patients concussion symptoms improve over the course of their recovery," said Dr. Paul Testa, chief medical information officer at NYU Langone who is also a study investigator.

- here is the announcement