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Neurology. 2011 Apr 26;76(17):1456-62. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e31821184c9. Epub 2011 Feb 2.

The King-Devick test as a determinant of head trauma and concussion in boxers and MMA fighters.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 3400 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.



Sports-related concussion has received increasing attention as a cause of short- and long-term neurologic symptoms among athletes. The King-Devick (K-D) test is based on measurement of the speed of rapid number naming (reading aloud single-digit numbers from 3 test cards), and captures impairment of eye movements, attention, language, and other correlates of suboptimal brain function. We investigated the K-D test as a potential rapid sideline screening for concussion in a cohort of boxers and mixed martial arts fighters.


The K-D test was administered prefight and postfight. The Military Acute Concussion Evaluation (MACE) was administered as a more comprehensive but longer test for concussion. Differences in postfight K-D scores and changes in scores from prefight to postfight were compared for athletes with head trauma during the fight vs those without.


Postfight K-D scores (n = 39 participants) were significantly higher (worse) for those with head trauma during the match (59.1 ± 7.4 vs 41.0 ± 6.7 seconds, p < 0.0001, Wilcoxon rank sum test). Those with loss of consciousness showed the greatest worsening from prefight to postfight. Worse postfight K-D scores (r(s) = -0.79, p = 0.0001) and greater worsening of scores (r(s) = 0.90, p < 0.0001) correlated well with postfight MACE scores. Worsening of K-D scores by ≥5 seconds was a distinguishing characteristic noted only among participants with head trauma. High levels of test-retest reliability were observed (intraclass correlation coefficient 0.97 [95% confidence interval 0.90-1.0]).


The K-D test is an accurate and reliable method for identifying athletes with head trauma, and is a strong candidate rapid sideline screening test for concussion.

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