Blog: Why the Game Needs EYE-SYNC: A Player’s Perspective

Have you ever thought about how much detail and nuance you are missing each moment of the day? Of the infinite information coming in through our senses from the world around us, our brains do an amazing job of discerning what is immediately important, and what we can allow to fade into the background. If we were wired to notice every detail, the world would be over-stimulating. The ability to discern what is important at that moment and what is tertiary is part of what makes the human brain uniquely advanced among animals.

After a big hit or a play that could have resulted in injury, the first thing an athlete gets asked is, “Hey, are you ok?”

This question is challenging to answer because the brain does such an outstanding job of blocking certain things out (sights, emotions, physical pain, etc.).

Different from an injury to muscle or bone, in the event of a head injury, the athlete is unable to accurately answer the question, “Was that pain/feeling/emotion here before the hit?”. Our brain is the primary tool for self-assessment, but after an injury, the brain’s answers to, “Are you ok?” probably shouldn’t be the go-to assessment.

For a long time, the objective criteria for diagnosing a head injury and the healing process afterward was limited to medical professionals asking players about symptoms they may be experiencing, or questions about where they are, or have them follow a finger with their eyes… all with hundreds or thousands of screaming fans, bright lights, and their teammates all around them. It’s hard for the medical professional to make a call and it’s hard for the athlete to self-assess.

In addition to the challenges of a straightforward evaluation in that type of environment. Every athlete wants to stay in the game, so some skew their answers in an effort to keep playing, despite the risks. They may be outright lying or they may be less capable of knowing what the right thing to do is after sustaining a concussion. Either way, their answers don’t always reflect reality, and don’t help the medical professionals put in place to help the players.

I joined the SyncThink Advisory Board because I know the challenges faced by both athletes and medical professionals around diagnosing these types of injuries. I hated the idea that a athletic trainer or a doctor had to make a judgement call based on (usually unintentionally) unreliable information from the athlete. I have been learning about this space for years, trying to follow developments around testing, prevention, and recovery. When I heard about what SyncThink was building, I realized there was a better way. Using EyeSync, a player’s biased answers are taken out of the equation! You can’t lie to the test in order to stay on the field, and there’s objective data to help the medical professional make the call, rather than the feelings of a potentially brain-injured person.

Beyond assisting with quick diagnoses, EyeSync has been shown to be useful in determinations on recovery. The traditional recommendations around recovery have been much like the traditional forms of assessment: primarily based on the subjective feelings of the brain-injured person.  Conceptually, we can see how this makes sense. Typically, when humans injure a body part, we feel pain from the moment of injury, and then we repeatedly ask ourselves things like, “Does my foot hurt when I walk on it?” or “Does my knee hurt when I bend it?” for weeks or months afterward. The brain does not have pain receptors, so we try to use the levels of headache, nausea, sleepiness, etc. as analogs for a person’s recovery. Without any metrics around improvement, we are making educated guesses whether someone is ready to play. Thankfully, EyeSync can help monitor patients along the way and give objective data to help make those determinations.

I’m excited for the future of sports. Some of it is already here!