NAU, Mayo Clinic partner on field to study concussion effects - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

NAU, Mayo Clinic partner on field to study concussion effects

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Little is known about the damage the game of football can do to the players, especially concussions, which can cause memory problems and even early Parkinson's Disease down the road. So the Mayo Clinic is partnering with Northern Arizona University to put an extra set of eyes on the sidelines. 

"I don't want you limping down the aisle when you're 30 years old because of an injury you sustained at NAU that was not taken care of," said NAU team physician George Hershey. They usually see six to eight concussions a year, and they are now teaming up with the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix to monitor hard hits. 

"How do they hit the ground, were they able to brace themselves, do they appear coordinated when they get up?" Hershey said of the things they will be looking for in players. 

Mayo Clinic neurologist Bert Vargas can watch the game and control a robot remotely to communicate with the players and look for signs of a concussion. Think of it like a robot with a Skype connection. 

"We're able to interact real time with an audio video connection," Vargas said. He is hoping a neurologist on the line in Phoenix could come up with the same prognosis as the physician on the sidelines in Flagstaff. 

"Not all middle schoolers or even high schools have an athletic trainer on site," said NAU athletic trainer Sarah Shute. She said she sees great potential in this technology, especially with younger players, who are more susceptible to head injuries. 

"One day, if there are enough neurologists like Dr. Vargas willing to sit through three hours of a football game on call, waiting to see if someone has a concussion, that's really cool," Shute said. 

Vargas said they are looking into more portable, less expensive ways of having this technology on the sidelines - maybe in the form of a smart phone. 

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