Concussion Baseline Testing - Why do we do it?

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The Sports Injury Clinic

Zac Rouse

March 20, 2023


What is baseline testing?

Baseline tests are a group of standardised tests used to assess an athlete’s current function at a time without injury or compromise. In the perspective of concussion, baseline testing would involve testing high-risk athletes prior to starting their sporting season in areas specific to concussion both physically and cognitively. It provides normative data of the athlete to compare with if a Concussion was sustained in the season.

Why is baseline testing so important for concussions?

Unlike most musculoskeletal injuries, resolution of symptoms following a concussion is a poor indicator for brain recovery. Sustaining a concussion will result in a variety of changes within the body which can include metabolic disturbances and changes in blood flow to the brain. Complete recovery of the brain from a concussion takes time; a process which has been shown to take at least 3 to 4 weeks in adults and has an unknown timeline for children and adolescents.

Within this brain recovery time after a concussion, our brain is extremely vulnerable where even the smallest of impacts can cause secondary concussion injuries and can increase the risk of sustaining a severe brain injury with perhaps perpetual or fatal outcomes. In this time, initial symptoms of Concussion can resolve, giving us a false sense of brain recovery and most likely a return to a dangerous sporting environment too soon. This is why relying solely on the resolution of self-reported symptoms, to make return-to-play decisions puts healthcare practitioners and athletes in an extremely precarious position.

When baseline tests are properly used, it aids the treating practitioner in making an informed decision as to brain recovery and overall function. It gives the practitioner a greater clinical insight into pre-injury physical and cognitive functioning, which provides clinicians with objective data to make more informed and safer, return-to-play decisions.

Without a baseline, healthcare practitioners are relying on their best guess as to when to return to sport safely rather than comparing to where normal function really is.

How often should an athlete undergo baseline testing?

We encourage baseline testing to be repeated annually to establish a valid, up to date test result in order to compare with should an athlete sustain a concussion during the year. It is recommended that an athlete completes their baseline test before the season starts and before a concussion is sustained.

How is Concussion baseline testing performed?

Here at The Sports Injury Clinic we complete our Baseline testing using the Complete Concussion Management network protocol. This involves a variety of tests in which the data is then uploaded to the Complete Concussion Management network which can be accessed by your Concussion trained Physiotherapist. The baseline testing covers the following:

·        Concussion history, medical history, learning disabilities, psychiatric history.

·        Symptom score.

·        Orientation.

·        Auditory Memory.

·        Concentration.

·        Visual tracking and processing speed.

·        Balance (sideline measure).

·        Postural sway using force plates.

·        Reaction Time.

·        Delayed Recall.

·        DANA neurocognitive testing.

The baseline testing takes approximately 30-90 minutes per person depending on the athlete and setting. It can be completed individually as a one-on one or within a team environment in which multiple athletes can be assessed via a variety of stations.

Don't wait until a concussion has already occurred, book your baseline test via our website now and you will be back to sport and life faster.


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