WHEN A FOOTBALL PLAYER SUFFERS A BLOW TO THE HEAD, there’s no way for his coaches to gauge the extent of damage—or, if symptoms are mild, whether he has a concussion at all. Too often, players are just sent back into the game rather than to the hospital for an MRI.

That’s one reason researchers at New York University School of Medicine want to bring brain function assessment to the scene of the injury. In collaboration with BrainScope Company, they have developed a device that collects a patient’s brainwaves via six electrodes stuck to the forehead. BrainScope computes the patient’s quantitative EEGs (sophisticated measures of the brain’s electrical activity) and compares the results with normal scores. Within minutes, it displays deviations from normal brain function and indicates a red alert if it detects brain-stem dysfunction, an active seizure or burst suppression (a flat EEG line with only intermittent bursts of activity).

BrainScope is being tested in three U.S. emergency rooms. Trials will soon expand to more hospitals and also to several university football teams and the U.S. Army. Medics will test BrainScope’s efficacy on victims of blast trauma, which causes damage that is largely unfamiliar to U.S. doctors.