It’s never too early to be prepared when it comes to your young athlete’s health. If a sports concussion occurs, it is vital to measure the function of the brain post-injury. Baseline testing while healthy can help health care professionals assess the effects of a concussion on an individual athlete and develop a plan for treatment when needed.
What is baseline testing?
Baseline testing is a pre-season exam performed to asses a patient’s balance and brain function prior to injury. These results can then be compared to a patient’s current injury to identify the effects of the concussion and allows a medical professional to make informed treatment decisions on an individually tailored basis.
What to expect during a baseline test
There are a few different processes and reactions that baseline testing will measure.
- Neurocognitive assessments
- Reaction time
Health care professionals should also take note of history of concussion, as well as any other medical conditions that could potentially have an impact on post-concussion recovery, including a history of migraines, mood disorders, anxiety, or learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
“I had done testing before school started and then they had me do it again at the doctor’s office,” says Brooke, who sustained a sports concussion after being kicked in the head during cheerleading practice.
“We compared those scores and did a different test with the doctor. That’s when we confirmed that it was a concussion.”
Why is baseline testing important?
All concussions are different and doctors will tailor treatment plans based on the patient’s unique symptoms. Having a baseline test prior to injury allows for the most informed medical diagnosis and treatment.
“Baselines are nice, because anytime we get the opportunity in sports medicine to compare you to you, it’s always great. We have a sample size of one. We know what your normal is when we had you in your best condition and we can look at those numbers comparatively,” says Scott Burkhart, Psy.D., Neuropsychologist and Concussion Expert at Children’s Health℠ Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.
If baseline testing is used, it is best to re-test on an annual basis to establish the most recent result for comparison. However, more frequent neuropsychological testing could be needed if a youth athlete has previously sustained a concussion.
Remember, a baseline exam should only be assessed by a trained health care professional with experience in concussion management.
Watch our concussion video series to learn more about detecting, preventing and treating concussions.
The only pediatric institute of its kind in Texas, the Children’s Health Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine aims at reducing the number of children being sidelined from injury. Learn more about our programs and services.