The Importance of Baseline Concussion Testing

As summer winds down and we settle back into our fall routines for many people that means a return to sports. Whether it be an adult recreational league or getting your kids geared up for another year of school sports its time to be thinking about preparing for the upcoming season. Sports can be a great way to meet new friends, release some stress, or get some much needed exercise. However, they can also lead to unintended injuries. It is estimated that 10% of all youth athletes playing contact sports will suffer a concussion (1).

Concussions occur as a result of a quick acceleration and deceleration of the
brain. While a direct blow to the head can result in a concussion, concussions can occur
without an individual striking their head at all (2). At the time of the injury signs or symptoms
can include:

  • loss of consciousness
  • confusion
  • a vacant stare
  • delayed responses
  • disorientation
  • slurred speech
  • memory deficits
  • seizure

After a concussion it is important to be assessed by a healthcare professional who can rule out more serious brain injuries and help guide you through your recovery and a safe return to sport.

Evidence has shown that while self-reported symptoms tend to decrease after a few
days or weeks, measurable deficits in areas such as balance, reaction time, cognitive
function, visual processing, and physical capacity can remain (3). This means a return to
activity based solely on self reported symptoms can result in a premature return to sport
putting the athlete at risk of sustaining further injury and delaying their recovery. The best
way to assure a safe return to activity following a concussion is through objective testing that
can be provided by a specially trained healthcare professional (4).

As mentioned above concussions can lead to deficits in areas like balance, reaction
time, cognitive function, visual processing, etc. While you may experience changes in one or
all of these areas following your injury there are also differences in these areas from person
to person. How quickly you react or how well you can hold your balance may be different
from your teammates. This means the best way to determine if you are ready for a return to
sport is to compare your current level of function to your pre-injury function (4). To determine
your pre-injury abilities a concussion trained healthcare provider can conduct a healthy
baseline test. The results of this test can then be used as a comparison if you were to
sustain a concussion during your sport season.

Baseline testing is not used to diagnose an injury but is used, as the name suggests,
as a measure of your healthy baseline. It consists of a number of tests designed to challenge
your balance, memory, visual processing, and reaction time, etc. Your baseline test allows
your provider to specifically tailor your treatment and return to sport decisions to you as an
individual. Tests remain valid for up to a year and can easily be incorporated into your
preseason routine. At Choice Health Centre we have several clinicians who are trained
in Complete Concussion Management. Whether you’re an individual athlete, a parent, or a
coach of an entire youth team interested in baseline testing we can answer any questions
you may have or set up testing for you and your team!

1. Pfister et al. 2015. The incidence of concussion in youth sports: a systematic review
and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine.
2. Giza, C.A., and Hovda, D.A. 2014. The new neurometabolic cascade of concussion.
3. Signoretti et al. 2011. The pathophysiology of concussion. American Academy of
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
4. Broglio et al. 2007. Neurocognitive performance of concussed athletes when
symptom free. Journal of athletic training.

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