The importance of Concussion Baseline Testing.
A concussion baseline test is a battery of tests performed prior to the start of a sporting season to help determine an athlete’s ‘normal’ cognitive and physical functions. By knowing what these individual ‘normal’ levels are, it can help in diagnosing the severity of a concussion, and also help assist with treatment protocols and return to play decisions.
Studies have shown that even when an athlete’s signs and symptoms may have cleared, there still may be cognitive impairments that are still present, which means the brain hasn’t fully healed yet. Thus the importance of a pre-season baseline test to have something to compare to and to help with detecting cognitive deficits that may not otherwise have shown up with a regular physical evaluation.
Complications may arise when an athlete returns-to-play too soon (before the brain has fully healed) and the potential for sustaining a second concussion that can ultimately lead to worsening of symptoms that last longer (post-concussion syndrome) or worse, the second impact syndrome, which is a very rare, but catastrophic brain injury that can potentially lead to death. This is where having baseline values to compare to, following an injury, can prevent premature return-to-play issues and hopefully any complications that may result.
We need to protect our young athletes against the risk of long-term or permanent brain damage, and have them baseline tested every year or two. The consensus statement provided at the 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport held in Zurich, recommended “that the assessment of cognitive functions should be an important component in the overall assessment of concussion and, in particular, any return-to-play protocol.” It should be re-iterated that the concussion baseline test is only a ‘tool’ to help determine properties of a concussion, and not a tool to be used to diagnose a concussion.
A great computerized test to help evaluate some neurocognitive functioning is a test called ImPACT, which was developed at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre and stands for Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing. ImPACT was developed to assist health professionals in the detection and management of concussion type injuries. It is currently being used by most professional teams in the NHL, NFL, NBA, MLS, etc… The specialized software can help with evaluating neurocognitive functions such as memory, attention span, processing speed, problem solving and reaction time, all which can be affected following a concussion.
Protect your child. Have them baseline tested.