With sports slowly returning to our landscape, concussions continue to be an aspect of athletics that players, parents and coaches need to address properly. One step that can be taken prior to the season that may assist with management of a concussion is having an athlete undergo baseline testing.
The purpose of baseline testing is to capture data that represents an athlete’s brain function in a “normal” or uninjured state. A healthcare provider can reference this data for comparison should a concussion be sustained in the future.1 Baseline testing can address multiple factors affected by a concussion such as memory, concentration, vision and balance among others. These tests can be administered in a variety of ways; from a paper questionnaire, to a computer-based program, and even a virtual reality headset. The tasks performed during a baseline test and the format in which it is delivered will be determined by the design and function of each baseline testing program.
At Athletico, select clinics utilize a computerized baseline testing program called ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing). This is an FDA-approved concussion management tool designed for athletes 12 years of age and older that captures information on visual and verbal memory, processing speed and reaction time.2
ImPACT baseline testing is completed through the program’s secure web portal. Each organization that uses ImPACT has a password protected account to access their testing database and to store an athlete’s testing results. Each ImPACT baseline test is completed on a computer utilizing its keyboard and external mouse. Athletico clinics that offer ImPACT testing have a dedicated room for athletes to complete their baseline test. This allows for decreased noise and less distraction so the athlete can concentrate on the tasks presented during the baseline test.
Each ImPACT baseline test takes approximately 30-40 minutes to complete. The first portion of the test captures basic demographic and medical history information. The following sections of the tests contain tasks meant to assess an athlete’s visual and verbal memory, processing speed and reaction time. At the conclusion of the baseline test, an athlete’s ImPACT Passport ID is generated which will allow other healthcare providers with ImPACT accounts to access an athlete’s baseline test results.
Should you suspect your child or one of your athletes has sustained a concussion, removal from play followed by an evaluation by a qualified healthcare provider are the first steps to a safe and proper recovery. An athlete should never return to play with a suspected concussion.
It is important to note that ImPACT and other baseline testing programs are not used for the diagnosis of a concussion. A qualified healthcare provider will diagnose an athlete’s concussion by examining signs and symptoms present and conducting a thorough cognitive (memory, concentration, etc.), ocular (vision), and vestibular (balance) examination.
When deemed appropriate by the healthcare provider, a post-injury test is utilized to measure an athlete’s progress in their concussion recovery. Oftentimes, the healthcare provider will wait until the athlete’s signs and symptoms have diminished before having them perform a post-injury test. Data from this new post-injury test provides objective information on an athlete’s current state relative to their baseline state. The comparison of this information in turn helps the healthcare provider determine the appropriate course of action for an athlete’s safe return-to-play.
ImPACT tests should only be read and interpreted by healthcare providers who are trained to do so. Healthcare providers that have completed the ImPACT Credentialed ImPACT Consultant (CIC) certification program have received specific training on the test utilization and interpretation. These individuals are best appointed to make the determination when an athlete’s post-injury test scores have returned to baseline levels where a safe return to play process can begin. Should an athlete have deficits in the testing measures relative to their baseline, these healthcare providers can offer other courses of treatment as well as recommendations on when another post-injury test can be completed.
To locate a CIC provider nearest you, please visit the ImPACT website here.
Are you a member of an AHAI Youth Hockey team? Click here to learn more about baseline testing through the A Step aHead program. This collaboration between AHAI, the Chicago Blackhawks, Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, Rush University Medical Center and Athletico offers free baseline testing for any AHAI hockey player 11 years of age and older starting August 1st.
1. Broglio SP, Cantu RC, Gioia GA, Guskiewicz KM, Kutcher J, Palm M, McLeod TV. National Athletic Trainers’ Association Position Statement: Management of Sport Concussion. Journal of Athletic Training 2014;49(2):245–265
2. ImPACT Applications Inc., https://impacttest.com/