Coach Donivan Hodge said the EyeBOX will help players get back on the field quicker. (Courtesy: Donivan Hodge)

ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — Coach Donivan Hodge worries about concussions every football game.

“It’s a big concern,” Hodge said. “These guys, you know…they have livelihoods outside of football.”

He’s the offensive coordinator and co-founder of the Leander Wolfpack Football. The minor league professional development team is now working with Family Hospital Systems which has the fastest concussion screening technology in the state. 

The EyeBOX can diagnose a concussion in minutes. It’s small enough to fit a backpack, lightweight and battery-operated.

“This seems to be a really, really good idea for our guys and it’s safer and quicker to get our guys back on the field,” explained Hodge. “Being able to get them – have a safer way and diagnosing it and getting them the treatment for it quicker. It just changes the game.”

Diagnoses in 4 minutes

Family Hospital Systems explained that patients from a sports injury or an accident can learn quickly if they’ve had a concussion.

Family Hospital Systems said since May about a hundred patients have been tested using the EyeBOX. (KXAN Photos/Arezow Doost)

“What it does is it takes away the guesswork that we go into when we’re looking at people who have had accidents that may have a concussion or traumatic brain injury,” said Lisa Switzer, director of outpatient imaging with Family Hospital Systems, “I mean, we’re all familiar with the follow my finger rule, right? And it’s a great way to make sure eyes are tracking. But what this does is it sets an algorithm into the eye tracking movement to see if we actually are having a concussion or not.”

Set up in a small exam room, patients sit down looking at the screen and get adjusted to make sure their eyes are within a box. They then answer a few questions about what happened and their symptoms. After that they can select a video from cartoons to cake decorating to watch. The EyeBOX then tracks thousands of eye movements while patients watch the short video moving around the screen.

“There are two cameras that track your eye movements individually, both up and down and side to side and make sure that they match up and that it also has an auditory function to it to give you auditory stimulus, right. So, if you’re hearing something and you’re seeing something, your brain has to function on two levels,” Switzer said. 

Lisa Switzer was tasked with finding a new tool which could help with patients coming in and needing concussion screening. (KXAN Photos/Arezow Doost)

She added that in just four minutes there’s a diagnosis. The EyeBOX analyzes the data, a score is provided along with graphs which detail if the patient’s eye movements are consistent with concussions. 

The Wisconsin-based company behind the device is Oculogica, and it first launched the EyeBOX in January 2019. Family Hospital Systems added that the EyeBOX can diagnose a concussion up to seven days after an injury. 

Children as young as five to adults up to 67-years-old can be tested using the tool. Family Hospital Systems said since May out of about a hundred patients who have been tested, 20% had a concussion, patients that didn’t expect to have one.

“It was a shock to them. But we’re able to help them from beyond that help – get treatment, do they need to see neurologist? Do they just need to follow up with the primary care physician, you know, and start them on a plan to wellness,” Switzer said. 

Game changer

Family Hospital Systems said that insurance does cover the test since it’s now FDA approved. If patients have to pay out of pocket, then it’s $250 for the initial screening.

Family Hospital Systems is the first medical facility in Texas to offer the EyeBOX concussion screening. (KXAN Photos/Arezow Doost)

“Prior to this, when we used to see a concussion, we would probably pull the player out, we would send them to a neurologist that would kind of have to do a detailed assessment. And then based on that they would kind of send it back to us,” said Dr. Mohammad Jahadi, a clinic consultant liaison with Family Hospital Systems. “That could sometimes you know, getting into a neurologist’s office could take months. Well, you know, the further you get from the concussion, the harder it is to assess it and also the sooner you get back with treatments of a concussion to better have a recovery you’re going to have for those athletes.”

Jahadi is a sports chiropractor and on the sidelines of many high school football games. 

“If we know that the concussions there we can treat and assess that patient a lot better than trying to guesstimate if that problem is there,” Jahadi said.

Family Hospital Systems has the EyeBOX set up at its Brushy Creek location in Round Rock. The ER expects to add more to other facilities as demand for exams grows. Staff can also take the EyeBOX to schools and sports programs. 

“The wonderful thing about the EyeBOX is that you do not need to be within hours of an impact to be accurately assessed,” Switzer said. “For accuracy, a quiet room with no distractions is the best place to perform an evaluation.”