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Doctors Use Robot to Check NAU Football Players for Concussions

UT Southwestern

A first-time study using a remote-controlled robot shows doctors can make accurate assessments about concussions from a distance. The research is meant to help rural schools gain access to medical specialists for sporting events. Arizona Public Radio’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

The robot is a four-foot high video screen on wheels. Specialists in Phoenix used it to remotely examine Northern Arizona University football players for concussions at home and away games.

They made the same determination as on-site athletic trainers 100 percent of the time.

Cherisse Kutyreff, director of sports medicine at NAU, says, "This isn’t something you’ll see popping up in athletic training rooms any time soon, I imagine, but I think it’s more the ideals and principals of the study, which is how can we collaborate and work in a team medicine approach to better serve student athletes."

Kutyreff says many rural high schools don’t have access to medical specialists. The study shows robots—or more common technology like smartphones and tablets—can be used for consultations.

Kutyreff cautions schools still need somebody on staff to act on the diagnoses. Less than half of public high schools nationwide have athletic trainers.

The study appeared in the journal Neurology.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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