Inside the Device That May Show If It Will Ever Be Safe to Play Football

Although the University of Colorado Buffaloes aren’t going to a college-football bowl game in 2017-2018, thanks to a mediocre 5-7 record, nine of its fellow members in the Pac-12 conference qualified, with eight of those contests taking place on or after December 26. If the Buffs fall short again next year, though, some of its staffers will still be busy, because CU Boulder has been chosen to coordinate an ambitious research project into traumatic brain injury among student athletes, including those who slam heads on the gridiron, with one of the main tools being EYE-SYNC, a cutting-edge device designed to diagnose concussions by way of eye movement.


“It’s essentially a VR headset that’s got infrared cameras that will track the movement of the eye,” says Matt McQueen, an associate professor of integrative physiology at CU who’s been chosen to serve as one of the study’s main research investigators. “It’s a more objective measure than just asking student athletes questions.”

Concussions aren’t unique to footballers; those who play soccer and a range of other sports are at risk of brain injuries. However, the head-to-head contact that happens repeatedly during every minute of football action has fueled research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a disease defined as a “progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions.”

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