When an athlete begins playing a sport, before pre-season training begins, they should be given a baseline test to help the team treat their future head injuries and concussions. Baseline testing can help determine when there are changes in a player after a head injury.
What is baseline testing?
Baseline testing is an exam conducted by a trained health care professional. The point of the test is to assess an athlete’s brain function and balance, as well as to asses for concussion symptoms. Among the things they test for are ability to concentrate, how quickly they solve problems, and learning and memory skills.
These neuropsychological tests can be computerized or paper-pencil and should also take into account any previous conditions that might impact recovery — migraines, depression, mood disorders, anxiety, ADHD and learning disabilities can all play a role in concussion recovery.
How do you use baseline testing?
Results from baseline tests, or any pre-injury test, can be used to compare to a similar exam conducted during the season if the athlete has a suspected concussion. The ideal is for the test to take place before practice begins to ensure that it really is the baseline, normal functioning of the athlete’s brain.
If an athlete is suspected of having a concussion, a health professional will run the same battery of tests on them to see how the results compare to the first test. If an athlete has a concussion, the test can be repeated to see if the athlete is recovering and when it will be safe for them to return to play. The ideal is not for the baseline testing to be the only test, but to be part of a larger concussion treatment program.
Who should get baseline testing?
The test is generally only given to those 10 or older. Most parts of the test need to be repeated at the beginning of every season, but the full test should be repeated every two years or after any major head injuries.