Concussion baseline testing is a newer, proactive concussion management
tool available to athletes and sports-training personnel. In an era of
brain injury awareness and new evidence of the long-term dangers of concussions, the
administration of a baseline concussion test can be an important step
toward effective head injury management.
The 3 Parts of a Baseline Concussion Test
Many healthcare professionals, head trauma specialists, and sports training
organizations offer comprehensive programs for concussion baseline testing:
- The test takes approximately 30-45 minutes to administer for each player.
Testing will always be conducted before a sports season begins, preferably
right before the very first practice.
Testing is typically administered online, although options for written
paper testing also exist. Basic coordination, cognition, and mental processing
exercises and questions are administered to create a pre-season baseline
assessment of each athlete’s brain functions including:
- Reaction Time
- Ability to Concentrate
- Problem Solving
Results from the pre-season examination are set as a control or baseline.
The initial baseline test may also be able to detect any suspected presence
of existing brain injury symptoms. Test results are typically computerized
assessments which are stored and analyzed for future reference.
While the concussion baseline test can be used for all ages, some of the
assessment exercises are only intended for athletes ages 10 and above
due to basic skill level needed to answer the questions.
How Concussion Baseline Testing is Used
If any player is suspected of suffering a concussion, a post-injury test
session can be administered. An examination, similar to the baseline test,
will be given to the athlete and the outcome can be analyzed against the
baseline to give healthcare professionals detailed insight into areas
of the brain that may be injured. Without an existing baseline serving
as a control, post-injury tests can only be compared with average results
of the general public. Individualized results provide a much more detailed
look into that individual’s own specific condition. Treatment can
begin immediately upon analysis of post-injury test results.
Making Baseline Testing Effective
Only trained healthcare professionals should administer concussion baseline
tests. Furthermore, only those specifically trained in concussion management
should interpret results and offer treatment recommendations. Many testing
programs are offered by professional sports training organizations who
team up with or directly employ healthcare professionals and concussion
At minimum, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that baseline
testing should be re-administered every 2 years. For athletes who experience
a concussion or head injury, on or off the field of play, more frequent
testing is highly recommended in order to re-establish accurate baselines
and to closely monitor the player for changes in his/her condition or
recurring symptoms of injury. This testing can also serve as an early
warning tool to detect long-term signs of more severe forms of damage
stemming from previous concussions.