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Concussion Baseline Testing

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Posted on August 6, 2013

Concussion baseline testing is a newer, proactive concussion management tool available to athletes and sports-training personnel. In an era of increased 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:
    1. Reaction Time
    2. Learning
    3. Memory
    4. Ability to Concentrate
    5. 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 specialists.

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.

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