Why Baseline Testing?
Concussions can produce a wide array of symptoms, which poses a challenge for coaches, trainers, parents, and health professionals involved in the care of an injured athlete. The time-course for recovery also varies widely from athlete to athlete, making it impossible to employ a “cookie-cutter” approach to concussion rehabilitation and return-to-play timelines. Currently, there is no reliable diagnostic test or marker that can be used to definitively identify a concussion when it’s occurred, or similarly, determine when a concussion has resolved.
For this reason, a growing emphasis has been placed on objective baseline testing protocols that can be used to track an athlete’s recovery and serve as a tangible measurement for return-to-play readiness. By measuring an athlete’s “normal” level of functioning, Healthcare Providers are better able to gauge the level of impairment that may exist post-injury by performing comparative testing.
While baseline testing lends value and objectivity to post-injury assessments, it is never relied upon solely when determining return-to-play readiness. Healthcare Providers should utilize an array of tools and weigh a variety of factors as part of their clinical decision-making process such as: results from additional clinical tests, symptom-reporting from the athlete, results of exertion testing and sport performance in a non-contact environment (to name a few).
Who Should Undergo Baseline Testing?
Anyone can obtain a baseline test, however it is recommended in particular for those at higher risk of sustaining a head injury (i.e. athletes participating in sports that pose a high risk for body contact or collisions).
What does a Baseline Test Involve?
Recent advancements in concussion management have resulted in the widespread use of computer-based neurocognitive tests, and evidence now shows that concussed athletes demonstrate subtle cognitive deficits that may persist beyond symptom resolution – emphasizing the fact that return to play once “symptom-free” is no longer an accurate measure of readiness.
For this reason, Shift-Trained Healthcare Providers employ computerized neurocognitive testing as part of all baseline and post-injury assessments. This type of testing provides us with a snapshot of how an athlete’s brain is functioning both pre and post injury by measuring things like reaction time, processing speed, memory, and attention/concentration. These cognitive processes are often affected by concussive injury, and so this type of testing provides important information when managing an athlete’s recovery.
Note: computer-based neurocognitive tests that are designed for concussion assessment (eg. ImPACT) are valuable and valid tools that provide objective information on various aspects of neurocognitive performance; however, these tests are not meant to replace a full neuropsychological assessment that would be provided by a qualified Neuropsychologist. When more complex or comprehensive testing is required, specialist referral may be indicated.
It is well known that neurocognitive performance may be impacted following a concussion, but other aspects of physical performance may also be hindered: e.g. balance and visual coordination skills. This type of testing is often overlooked during traditional baseline evaluations, but all Shift Providers are trained to assess these additional parameters to gain a more complete picture of the athlete.
Where Can I obtain a Baseline Test?
To find a Trained Healthcare Provider near you, visit our locator page. For large organization or group testing inquiries, please contact our central office at 1-855-223-1002 X1 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.