App helps athletes recognize concussions

Concussion research and prevention has now come to the forefront of athletics and medicine; it's a big issue for athletes, both children and adults.

But now there's an app for that. It came about when researchers at the University of Arizona made it through the first phase of the NCAA Mind Matters Challenge, in hopes that by making athletes see double it'll make them think twice about concussions.

"We know a lot more now than we did 5-years-ago, a lot more than last year, and less than we're gonna know next year," said Dr. Hirsch Handmaker.

But thanks to some engineering and biomedical researchers at the University of Arizona, concussion education is becoming a virtual reality.

"We emulate the concussion, and then the goal is to show them what it would be like to try and catch that ball and run it back, if they're unstable and unsteady what's going to happen? They're going to get that second concussion; someone's gonna clock em," said Handmaker.

With a smartphone and a "Google Cardboard," athletes can now experience the dangers of concussions with an app, aiming to inform players of symptoms and prevent permanent brain damage.

"The biggest danger to anybody suffering a concussion is not letting the brain heal before you have a second incident," he said.

And while there is still a lot to learn about concussions, Dr. Handmaker says the golden rule should always be, "When in doubt, sit 'em out."

"We were all taught if you fall off the bike get back on the bike, if you fall off the horse get back on the horse, and if you're in a game you're tough and prove how tough you are by going into the game. It's absolutely the wrong message; it's exactly the opposite," said Handmaker.

The NCAA Mind Matters grant is just a part of a $30 million joint initiative with the U.S. Department of Defense. The goal there is to design a virtual reality for soldiers, to help them as well as athletes.