Virtual Reality Football: Evaluating Return-to-Play Readiness in Athletes with Concussion


Available for Licensing
TRL: 8

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​​Copyright (Software)


Jaclyn A Stephens
Francisco Ortega
Alexander Malott
Kareem Youssef

At A Glance

Researchers at Colorado State university have developed a virtual reality (VR) program to enhance evaluation procedures for athletes with mTBI using innovative sport-specific tasks for high-performing athletes.  Importantly, VR allows users to mimic the demands of competitive sports, without the inherent risks.  Further, VR is a relatively inexpensive tool that could be used by physicians, athletic trainers, and others involved in return-to-play decision making. 

The novel VR football environment was developed to incorporate expertise from rehabilitation scientists, sports medicine, and cognitive neuroscience, integrating best-practice and evolving evaluation treatment practices with testing from competitive athletes throughout development.

Continued development and testing of new VR environments are being incorporated.

For more detailed information about this technology, please contact our office.  

Licensing Manager

Jessy McGowan

Reference No.:  2019-086


​NCAA athletes, like those at Colorado State University (CSU), experience approximately 10,560 sports-related mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) each year1, and children in the United States sustain up to 1.9 million sports- and recreation-related mTBI each year2. Providers serving these youth with mTBI must make difficult return-to-play decisions after injury. Best practice methods to monitor athletes include a combination of self-reported symptoms, clinician-rated balance performance, and computerized neurocognitive tests3.  However, athletes are known to under-report symptoms4, and balance and neurocognitive measures may insufficiently challenge high-performing athletes. Thus, even when best practice is followed, athletes with recent mTBI are at increased risk for musculoskeletal injuries5 or new mTBI6 upon return-to-play. Notably, repeat mTBI can have negative effects on long-term health, as athletes with 2 or more mTBI demonstrate higher rates of physical, cognitive, and sleep symptoms than peers with fewer injuries7.

  • First Virtual Reality technology to evaluate mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) from sports.
  • Evaluation of athletes without inherent risk of further damage by mimicking the demands of competitive sports.
  • VR can capture aspects of performance that athletes do not realize are being tested – like to reduce underperforming by athletes at baseline (pre-season)
  • Feasible tool for clinical practice – allows for testing of various domains (e.g., vestibular, motor, cognitive) which can define the origin of brain injury deficits
  • VR can address limitations of current Best Practices (poor test-retest reliability, participant sandbagging, and reduced sensitivity to subtle deficits)
  • Athletics clinical providers (e.g., physicians, neuropsychologists, athletic trainers, etc.)
  • Evaluation of high-performance athletes (e.g., football players) who have suffered concussion
  • Applicable to high-performance athletes in other sports

Still image of the virtual reality football field developed here.  Check out the Tedx: Returning to “Athlete” After Concussion to see a demo of the program.


Stephens, Jaclyn. “Returning to “Athlete” after Concussion” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, 2019

Sipes, Rachel. “Sports-Related Concussions and Getting Back on the Field: When Is It Too Soon?” Colorado State University SOURCE, 28 Oct. 2019,

  1. Zuckerman et al., 2015
  2. Bryan et al., 2016
  3. Baugh et al., 2016
  4. Meier et al., 2015
  5. Brooks et al., 2016
  6. Marshall, Guskiewicz, Shankar, McCrea, & Cantu, 2015
  7. Schatz, Moser, Covassin, & Karpf, 2011

Last updated: January 2021

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