Concussion Baseline Testing Kickstart your Fall/Winter Sport Season Right (updated)

by | Jun 7, 2022 | concussion, News Articles

As the temperatures in the Halton Region start to rise, so the desire to get outside and enjoy summer sports builds. But before you or your loved ones rush out for a game of lacrosse or other impact sport, let’s discuss concussion baseline testing.

Why Concussion is So Concerning

After an impact to your head, be it a blow, jolt, or fall, you may not have any visible signs of an injury. But jarring of your brain can cause an invisible traumatic brain injury (TBI) like a concussion. Symptoms include a bad headache, reduced levels of alertness, confusion, lack of balance or coordination, or even unconsciousness. No wonder when you consider that a concussion temporarily interferes with the functioning of your brain.

Unfortunately, more severe symptoms may only present up to 48 hours after impact – putting your or your child’s health at risk. Fewer than 50% of high school athletes even report their concussions.

What’s more, a second blow to your head before you have recovered ( Second Impact Syndrome) could prove to be lethal. Despite this, many athletes underplay their condition so that they can get back on the field.

What Is Baseline Concussion Testing?

Unfortunately, there is no single clinical test that can be done to know when an athlete has fully recovered from a concussion. Additionally, research has shown that symptom resolution occurs much more quickly than brain recovery, which may put athletes at risk for returning to sport too soon , especially if sport clearance is based solely on symptoms.

How, then, are health practitioners, coaches, and parents supposed to know when an athlete is ready to safely return to sport? Cue baseline testing for concussions.

Done before a sports season starts, a baseline test for concussion uses a series of physical, neurological, and cognitive assessments to measure healthy brain function before an injury occurs . This documents a set of values for the different areas of the brain that could potentially be affected with a concussion to establish your “ normal ” or baseline.

Then, in the event of a concussion, these baseline test results are compared with post injury testing. Evaluating the comparisons helps to determine scientifically when you have returned to your normal pre-concussion baseline values. Only then is it safe for you to resume playing sport.

The most recent International Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport suggests “ completing comprehensive baseline tests prior to the start of the season offers health care professionals valuable and objective information to help them make difficult return to play decisions. It also provides an additional educative opportunity to teach athletes about concussions .” Furthermore, the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, Ontario Psychological Association, The Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine, and the Center for Disease and Control all support and recommend the use of baseline testing in high-risk athletes to help manage concussions and make informed decisions regarding when they can safely resume playing.

What is a Concussion Baseline Test?

Baseline concussion testing usually takes place during pre-season, preferably before the first practice. Be sure to look for a baseline concussion test that:

  • Includes more than just a computerized neurocognitive test (NCT) such as the ImPACT test. Although vital for assessing neurocognitive function, research has shown that neuropsychological tests should not be used in isolation, since they only address one aspect of concussion.
  • Provides better reliability and utility with a multidimensional series of comprehensive assessments of the full spectrum of concussion outcomes like:
    • Concussion and medical history
    • Symptom score
    • Orientation
    • Auditory memory
    • Concentration
    • Visual tracking and processing speed
    • Balance
    • Postural sway
    • Reaction time
    • Delayed recall
    • Neurocognitive testing and more

The most recent International Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport suggests “ completing comprehensive baseline tests prior to the start of the season offers health care professionals valuable and objective information to help them make difficult return to play decisions. It also provides an additional educative opportunity to teach athletes about concussions .” Furthermore, the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, Ontario Psychological Association, The Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine, and the Center for Disease and Control all support and recommend the use of baseline testing.

Why Choose Sheddon Physiotherapy and Sports Clinic for Baseline Testing?

We offer the most comprehensive concussion baseline testing of any sports medicine clinic in the Mississauga and Oakville area. All the therapists at Sheddon Physiotherapy and Sports Clinic have undergone extensive training with the Complete Concussion Management program to be educated with the most recent research-proven concussion management strategies.

In addition, we have successfully treated hundreds of sports-related concussions and have an extensive network of specialists, including a sports medicine physician, vestibular physiotherapists, chiropractors, and athletic therapists. If you are interested in learning more about our concussion baseline testing for individual athletes or teams, please contact us online or at 905-849-4576

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