"As scientists and clinicians, IURTC has been an immeasurable value to us."
Nicholas Port and Steve Hitzeman
Professors of Optometry
There are 3.2 million cases of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) each year, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—and 1.5 million cases are sports-related.
IU School of Optometry professors Dr. Nicholas Port and Dr. Steve Hitzeman may have discovered a way to tackle these numbers. They’ve invented a portable eye tracker that tests eye movements as a possible biomarker for head injuries.
“We are trying to build an automated, objective tool for concussions that is analogous to the blood pressure cuff or Breathalyzer,” Port says.
Research continues to show that concussions can have serious long-term effects, especially in athletes. The new eye tracker is changing the game—it can be used on the sidelines in all weather to accurately detect concussions in a fraction of the time trainers and doctors currently need.
“Mild traumatic brain injury is a serious problem affecting athletes of all ages in numerous sports, and IURTC is excited to be working with the inventors to develop and commercialize this new diagnostic tool,” says IURTC Director of Technology Commercialization Bill Brizzard.
Port and Hitzeman received a $429,000 grant from the NIH to study mTBI in IU athletes. In addition, a $125,000 grant from the Indiana State Department of Health Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Fund enabled them to expand their studies to high school sports programs.
The pair has been conducting pilot projects over the past four years with IU team trainers and physicians, working primarily with athletes from IU men’s football and men’s and women’s soccer. The new funding expanded their studies to include two full-time trainers who use the tool to collect post-injury eye movements on all IU teams, as well as a full-time trainer at two local high schools.
Port and Hitzeman are now working with IURTC to protect the intellectual property rights of the eye tracker.
“IURTC has been an immeasurable value to us,” Port said. “As scientists and clinicians, we do not know anything about intellectual property or how to commercialize the tools we are developing.”