By Dr. Joseph Bernard
Sports Medicine Specialist & Credentialed ImPACT Consultant
There has been a significant amount of research into sports-related concussions among student athletes in recent years. An estimated 4 million to 5 million concussions occur annually and an increase has been noted among middle school athletes.
In response to this, school districts have worked to raise awareness of concussions among coaches and parents. Many high schools now require coaches to complete a pre-season concussion awareness training program, while football coaches have been urged to teach safer tackling techniques to players.
Baseline Cognitive Test
One of the best tools available to help treat and manage concussions among student athletes is known as a baseline cognitive test.
The baseline test is a 25- to 30-minute computer test that measures memory, concentration, speed and reaction time. It's typically done at the doctor's office before the sports season begins. The test is recommended for children age 12 and older.
When a player sustains a head injury and a concussion is suspected, they complete the test again, which allows their physician to assess the severity of their injury and manage their recovery by comparing it to their baseline test.
Before baseline testing, it was often difficult to determine when a person's brain was back to its pre-injury state as it was not something that could be identified on an X-ray or blood test. Doctors relied on a patient's history of symptoms and physical exam findings to determine when they could resume activities. On their own, those diagnostic methods didn't give a complete picture of a player's condition. When used in conjunction with baseline and post-injury testing, physicians are able to more effectively treat and manage concussions to ensure players are completely healed before their return to the sport. This is important because one of the greatest risks of a concussion can occur if a player returns to the sport too soon.
If they sustain a second head injury while the brain is still healing, they run the risk of a serious brain injury, which could lead to symptoms that linger for months. Instead of having a week or two recovery period, a player might face months of recovery that might even include being out of school.
Once you have been diagnosed with a concussion, the best advice is to be careful of your head and take it easy. It's better to treat concussions aggressively and be completely sure you are healed than to run the risk of missing an entire year of sports or school.
Schedule an ImPACT Test
Dr. Bernard is a credentialed ImPACT consultant with specialized training in the latest concussion management tools available. For more information, or to schedule an ImPACT test, please call his office at 603- 778-7975.