Is The ImPACT Test Reliable?

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It turns out, using those ImPACT tests on the sidelines might not be such a good idea after all. In the rush to protect football players from going back out onto the field following a possible brain injury, many organizations have taken to using the computerized concussion test to help immediately diagnose players. However, Medical Xpress reports newly published research from a team led by UT Arlington assistant professor Jacob Resch suggests the test may not be as foolproof as previously thought.

When used within clinical settings, the ImPACT test is actually still strongly reliable on some factors. Other factors didn’t fair so well though, with the test miscatergorizing healthy participants as impaired as often as 46 percent of the time. The authors don’t necessarily mean to debunk the ImPACT test with their research, but instead say the study shows how important it is we use multiple types of tests during concussion assessments.

“This research confirms previous findings about ImPACT, and that is especially noteworthy in light of a recent study that found that athletic trainers who use computerized neurocognitive testing choose ImPACT,” Resch said. “We hope this study re-emphasizes the importance of using multiple measures such as balance and a thorough clinical examination to assess concussed athletes.”

The study, published online May 31st in the Journal of Athletic Training, tested 91 men and women, ages 19 to 24. The researchers found that the ImPACT test miscategroized healthy patients between 22 to 46 percent of the time, with the most unreliable aspects of the test relating to verbal and visual memory.

“Clinicians should recognize that a computerized neuropsychological test such as ImPACT is only one component of a concussion-management protocol and use all appropriate tools in clinical decision making and making a return-to-play decision,” the paper said.

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