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A Review of Smartphone Applications for Persons With Traumatic Brain Injury

What Is Available and What Is the Evidence?

Kwan, Vivian, MSc; Bihelek, Nicoline, MSc; Anderson, Vicki, PhD; Yeates, Keith, PhD

The Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation: March/April 2019 - Volume 34 - Issue 2 - p E45–E51
doi: 10.1097/HTR.0000000000000425
Focus on Clinical Research and Practice

Objectives: To map the number and type of smartphone applications available for persons with traumatic brain injury (TBI), evaluate validity of app content, and investigate evidence for any claims made.

Methods: We searched iTunes and Google Play and also completed a web search. The purpose of each app and any claims were extracted, and a search for best available evidence was performed.

Results: Seventy apps met our inclusion criteria (35 related to assessment, 11 to education, 9 to treatment/management, 8 to impact sensors, and 7 to symptom tracking). To the best of our knowledge, no empirical research has been published to demonstrate that the use of any particular TBI-related app leads to clinically meaningful benefits compared with not using the app. Other problems include potential biases in self-report leading to possible app misuse, lack of references for app content, and inappropriate marketing to laypersons not trained to interpret the findings of tools validated for use by healthcare professionals.

Conclusions: The current evidence for benefit from using TBI-related apps is minimal. More collaborative research is needed among clinicians, scientists, and app developers to determine whether, and how, apps may be helpful to individuals at risk for or following TBI.

University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada (Mss Kwan and Bihelek and Dr Yeates); and University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia (Dr Anderson).

Corresponding Author: Vivian Kwan, MSc, Clinical Psychology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Dr, NW, Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, Canada (

The authors thank Dr G. H. for his insights in the discussion pertaining to the legal context.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citation appears in the printed text and is provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's Web site (

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2019 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.