The new school year has already arrived for many kids across the country and that means fall sports are getting ready to kick off. With the upcoming season almost here, athletes are undergoing new testing to help protect their brains. But, what exactly are these tests and how do they protect young athletes from long-term concussion symptoms?
What is Baseline Testing?
Schools nationwide are adopting concussion protocols that include baseline testing to help identify concussions as they happen. They do this by measuring the mental and physical performance of athletes before the season begins, including tests on learning and memory skills, attention, and balance.
This way, health professionals or team staff can test athletes suspected of having a concussion and compare the post-injury results against pre-season results.
Which specific test your school district uses depends on several factors like the legal concussion standards in your state and age of the athletes being tested. More advanced baseline testing may include vision assessments or tests of perception. However, the majority of tests include the same basic measurements of cognition and balance, as well as checking for past concussions or symptoms.
How Does This Help?
These tests are helpful for setting a benchmark for individual athletes so future tests can identify any differences in mental or physical performance. Athletes who have experienced a concussion typically perform more poorly on tests of memory, cognition, and attention – even immediately after their injury.
The results of the baseline testing can give coaches or medical professionals more detailed information about a brain injury to quickly make more informed return to play or school decisions.
Because of the personalized nature of the tests, baseline testing also makes it easier to identify when someone is trying to hide an injury to stay off the sideline.
Baseline tests should be done every year to account for changes in mental or physical performance as athletes mature and ensure results of future tests are accurate.