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Mississippi Doctors Using Balance To Diagnose Concussions

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 13 Dec 2012 04:52pm | comments

Mississippi doctors are now using a machine more than a decade old to help diagnose concussions. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports doctors have discovered that testing a person's balance can tell if they have suffered a common brain injury.

University of Mississippi Medical Center doctor Bill Mustain puts a fellow employee through a series of tests designed to measure a person's balance.

"This is computerized dynamic posteography,"

The machine tests a person's balance by having them stand on a motion sensitive plate and try to be a still as possible while their eyes are closed, or the plate moves, or the colorful background shifts.

Mustain says a person with normal brain function will be able to stand with little problem, but a person with a concussion will stumble or fall.

"If you have problems with areas of your brain or your inner ear that controls your vestibular system, then depending on the test we use and how difficult it is, you will fall," Mustain said.

Mustain says it is not entirely clear what causes the loss of balance, but that poor balance is a strong indicator of concussion.

The machine has been at the hospital for almost 20 years to diagnose other brain problems but has only recently been used to diagnose concussions, or if a person has recovered from a concussion.

UMMC's Jack Mazurak, who was the test subject in the machine, says the feeling can be a little unsettling.

"It was just slight changes like you might be standing in stiff breeze or..." Mazurak said.

"Or riding on a subway. If you are normal you can recover from those things. People who have difficulty with maintaining their posture and difficulty with their balance control are unable to make those compensations and they fall,"

While football is most commonly associated with concussions, it is actually the third leading cause behind hockey and bike riding.

Knowing if a person has a concussion and when they have recovered could be life saving because concussions can cause permanent brain damage and possibly death if multiple concussions happen in a short period of time.

The hospital is offering tests to the public to establish a baseline for $120.

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