Local high school football players, UM team up for concussion study

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A group of South Florida high school football players have partnered up with the University of Miami to take part in some cutting-edge research that centers on the study of concussions.

The test is not only a first-time experience for 250 students from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, but for high school students in general. “It was easy. It was something new I tried,” said freshman Jaedon Henry.

The St. Thomas Aquinas football players who participated are the first high school athletes to put on goggles that can help detect concussions or help rule them out. “I’ve never had a concussion, but I hope it never comes to me,” said football player Zachary Sweeney, a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas. “It’s one of those things that just happens randomly. It could happen to anybody.”

The idea is that when it does happen, to find the most accurate way to test an athlete and assess when they’re ready to get back on the field. Experts said the current testing relies on athletes to assess and report on themselves.

“The advancements in technology at this point are at an all-time high when it comes to concussion awareness, and the University of Miami is at the forefront of that,” said Roger Harriott, head football coach at St. Thomas Aquinas.

The university developed testing with a 92 percent accuracy, but researchers said it’s conducted using a very large machine. “We’ve taken the test and put it in goggle form. Now we can do the test at the point of injury,” said Michael Hoffer, M.D., a concussion expert at UHealth.

The test, which only takes about six minutes, is a virtual reality eye motion test. Test subjects just put on the goggles and follow directions.

The technology has already been used on NFL teams. Saturday’s testing for the teens recorded baseline readings to refer back to if there is an injury. “We can compare the data and help them get back on the field as soon as possible,” said a medical student.

It doesn’t stop with the football team. The test may also be applied to male and female athletes in all sports.

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