Evaluating brain health can be a complicated process. Whether it's dementia, ADHD or a traumatic brain injury, knowing precisely what's going on is crucial. Imaging can help, such as CT scans or MRI scans, but for some issues, disease or injury is not visible until it's gotten to a point where early interventions are too late.
In sports, it's all about detecting head injuries. While CT scans and other diagnostic tests are always done when an athlete has been injured, it's vital for teams to know about the brain health of their members before taking the field. There are several ways to get a baseline evaluation of a player, including previous injuries, health history, and medical records, but a new way of measuring brain health and performance is taking a high-tech approach.
The WAVI system, made by a company in Austin Texas called Seeking Perfect Health was brought on to the market in early 2017 but is only available in a few clinics. It consists of an FDA-approved helmet that contains 22 nodes that detect electrical activity in the brain when the patient puts it on, and software that interprets the results. The device measures the brain's healthy by taking readings of voltage, reaction time, attention, and speed of processing. It works much the same way as an EEG, but that is a test that is costly, typically done in a hospital after an illness or injury and it doesn't provide a comprehensive picture of brain health. It's also expensive. An evaluation by WAVI can be done in a doctor's office or with an athletic trainer and is cheaper than an EEG or other imaging scans. In a press release, the president of Seeking Perfect Health, Dr. Mike Clark, who has a Ph.D. in natural health, explained, "The technology is a new paradigm in medicine. It's the first time people can get affordable, objective testing of their brain health. We get our blood pressure, and cholesterol checked. Why wouldn't we get our brain health checked?"
While the company says the system can detect brain changes that could be early signs of Alzheimer's or activity that's consistent with AD/HD, it's application in sports for the evaluation of concussion is gathering a lot of notice. Having an accurate picture of an athlete's baseline brain health is only part of the equation. If a player is injured, the system can be used to detect any changes in brain activity, cognition, and speed of processing. In southern California, the first school to use the device, Jserra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, is finding it very useful for their players. Concussion recovery time can differ from patient to patient, but the WAVI system offers a precise look at each player so the best course of treatment can be implemented. Take a look at the video below to see how one high school is using this technology to protect the brain health of their players.