Researchers at the University of Calgary believe they’re close to developing a product that could greatly improve a medical professional’s ability to detect a head injury.

As part of the school’s Integrated Concussion Research Program, engineers have developed a device that can detect changes in proteins and molecules in the brain, which is an indicator in several types of head injuries.

“The way it is diagnosed now is mostly based on questions asked of the patient, as there is no objective measure to test for a concussion,” Dr. Amir Sanati-Nezhad, assistant professor of mechanical and manufacturing engineering at the Schulich School of Engineering, said in a news release.

“With this new method, two hours after you have a suspected injury, you can test the blood using a simple smartphone-sized device.”

Essentially, when someone suffers an apparent head injury, physicians will take a blood sample, put the sample in the middle of a circular handheld immunosensor and spin it quickly.

Sensors on the end of the device are then able to detect the bio-markers associated with a concussion.

“That sample is going to aid the clinician in determining: ‘Should he go back on the field? How long is he going to sit out? Should more testing be done? (and) should a scan be done?’” Dr. Chantel Debert, assistant professor at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, told CTV Calgary.

The research team says the device should be able to determine a head injury within 30 minutes and will cost about $10 per test.

While still in the early development stages, the researchers believe it will be 100 times more sensitive than similar tests on the market today.

This is all good news for Jeff Pilon, a former Calgary Stampeders offensive lineman who says he suffered multiple head injuries in his career and is still dealing the side effects.

"I think it’s definitley going to help the medical field and the trainers and the clubs,” he said. “It’s an opportunity with this device to figure out: ‘Hey, do I want to take that chance?’”

The team’s latest research was recently published in the ACS Sensors journal.

With a report from CTV Calgary’s Brad MacLeod