What is a baseline concussion test?
A baseline test provides us with information about how individual brain functions before injury. It tells us what “normal” is for that individual. This helps us tailor treatment and return to work/school/sport in the event that that person sustains a concussion.
A baseline test measures things like memory, reasoning, balance, cognition & strength. All of which can be altered by a brain injury such as a concussion. Baselines are typically done at the beginning of sporting seasons. Baselines measurements should be done once a year; our brains are constantly changing, therefore, so will our baselines.
Why are baseline concussion screens important?
Fourteen-year-old boys are not all the same height. They do not have the same sized feet. Some love footballs while others would rather spend all day playing video games. Some look like little boys, while others look like young men. So why would we expect their brains to function the same way?
Forty-year-old females are not all the same height. They do not all have the same jobs or education backgrounds. Some are stay at home mom’s; others spend 60+ hours a week in an office. Some run marathons while others don’t own a pair of runners.
The point is that it is very difficult to plot brain function on a chart. “Normative data” is not specific to the individual. Our experiences, age, development, background, education, training, and so many other things contribute to our brain function.
A baseline concussion screen is completed while an athlete is healthy, before an injury, to find out what “normal” is for that individual.
In the event that the athlete sustains a concussion those baseline scores are then used to guide decisions about the athlete’s care. They are designed to help medical professionals make more educated decisions about concussion management and when returning the athlete to sport/school/work.
For example; if a 15-year-old elite athlete comes in with headaches and makes 4 or 5 errors on a balance test, those simple errors, that could be seen as “normal” for any other 15-year-old could be very significant for that individual. Baseline testing give us this information. The more information we have, the better care we can provide.
Take home message: Brain injuries are serious.
Education is crucial in treating these injuries. The more information we have, the better we can tailor treatment in the unfortunate event of a concussion. Information and proper care needs to be implemented at all ages.
Learn more about Concussion management
Dr. Rylee Stephens is a chiropractor at Garibaldi Active Wellness. In addition to completing her Doctor of Chiropractic and Masters of Sport Science she has partnered with Complete Concussion Management and Mountain Fitness Center with the goal of providing concussion education and evidence based care to the Squamish community.