More than a dozen Mississippi high schools will have access to telemedicine during football games this fall to help detect concussions – and possibly save lives.
Coordinated by the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Dell, the high schools are being equipped with a HIPAA-compliant platform integrated with VSee software. Using Windows tablets with high-definition cameras, medical personnel at each high school will be able to examine athletes suspected of having sustained a concussive hit and collaborate via video with UMMC specialists in real time.
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The project, launched in late August, will eventually equip 10 to 20 hospitals in the state with telemedicine equipment for the upcoming high school football season. The high schools chosen for the study will be a mix of urban, suburban and rural schools.
"For volunteer physicians who are willing to be at the game but don't have expertise in sports-related injuries, the ability to consult, on the spot, with a knowledgeable colleague, would no doubt be welcome," Fadesola Adetosoye, Dell's global healthcare solution leader for telemedicine and integrated care management, said in a recent blog post. "And for coaches who have no physician on the field, a virtual consult via telehealth technology could lead to better decisions about when to let a student play and when to keep the athlete off the field. While concussions are the number one concern, telehealth consults could be used to evaluate a wide variety of other common injuries, including heat stroke, which has also claimed the lives of young athletes."
The American Association of Neurological Surgeons estimates more than 62,000 concussions are sustained by high school athletes each year, part of some 300,000+ concussions sustained each year by U.S. athletes – which plays out to almost one in every five athletes in a contact sport sustaining a concussion. In college football alone, 34 percent of athletes have sustained a concussion, and 20 percent have had more than one.
The project could be life-saving as well. High school athletes have been known to suffer sudden impact syndrome, a rare but often fatal condition that occurs when someone sustains a concussion before fully recovering from a previous concussion.
"This is why immediate evaluation is so important" Adetosoye wrote. "If a concussion diagnosis is missed, and the athlete continues to play, a second concussion could prove catastrophic."
UMMC's Center for Telehealth will report to the National Federation of State High School Associations at the end of the season on how the project fared, with results expected to be available during the first half of 2016. The NFHS has expressed an interest in scaling the program to schools outside Mississippi.