Two United Kingdom institutions are putting virtual reality (VR) technology to use for concussion diagnosis.

The University of Birmingham and the University of East Anglia are conducting a trial to evaluate the use of the Oculus Rift VR headset to detect head injuries. Combined with a balance board, the system is aimed at detecting subtle neurologic changes to assist medics and physicians in concussion diagnosis.

While much current attention on concussions in the United States has involved football players, in the UK the focus has been on soccer players with head injuries. Both collisions at the goal (often between forward and goalie) and heading a soccer ball have the potential for head injuries. The VR study involves players wearing the headset, while standing on a balance board, and being asked to follow directions while balancing. Of course, while having a device like the Oculus Rift at the sidelines may not be feasible (requires a PC connected to it); perhaps future research will look into the use of a mobile VR headset (Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR, etc) for use instead.

We’ve covered several mobile apps that are designed to help diagnose concussions and also manage concussion symptoms. Several studies have investigated the use of Nintendo Wii balance boards for use with brain injury management as well. However, the use of immersive VR for concussion diagnosis remains an area with very limited research. While no results have been released yet from this UK study, it’s certainly an interesting angle and one that hopefully is published soon.