Researchers Create Voice-Analyzing App to Diagnose Concussions

The app examines speech for signs of traumatic brain injury. (Getty Images)

Researchers at the University of Notre Dame have created an app that they say will diagnose concussions simply by analyzing a person's voice.

After first identifying concussions in college boxers, Notre Dame researchers are planning to test their app on 1,000 youth and high school football players, according to the MIT Technology Review.

The app, designed for tablets, helps to flag brain injuries by examining speech patterns. Athletes who participate in high-impact sports can speak into the device before a competition and after.

The app will analyze the two different speech samples and look for indicators of traumatic brain injury, including distorted vowels, hyper nasality and imprecise consonants.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) have continued to plague athletes in high-impact sports and have been identified as a main cause of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease.

In August, the National Football League agreed to pay $761 million to retired football players who claimed their time in the NFL caused irreversible brain damage.

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Christian Poellabauer, associate professor of computer science and engineering at Notre Dame, helped to create the app and says it could help athletes in high-impact sports avoid further injury.

"This project is a great example of how mobile computing and sensing technologies can transform health care," Poellabauer said in a statement on the university website. "More important, because almost 90 percent of concussions go unrecognized, this technology offers tremendous potential to reduce the impact of concussive and subconcussive hits to the head."

According to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control between 1.6 - 3.8 million sports-and recreation-related TBIs occur in the United States each year. Children, young adults and senior citizens were most at risk for suffering mild traumatic brain injuries or concussions.

Symptoms of concussions can be challenging to identify and can appear to be symptoms for other medical conditions such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the CDC.

If the new round of testing goes well, the University of Notre Dame researchers plan on developing the app for the marketplace, according to the MIT Technology Review.

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