What is a Concussion?

Concussion is defined as a complex process affecting the brain, caused by biomechanical forces.  Concussions are hard to recognize because there is no visible injury to the structure of the brain.  Recognition comes from various post-concussion symptoms that may affect and individual’s cognitive and physical abilities, emotions and moods, and sleeping patterns.  The majority (80-90%) of concussion resolve in a short (7-10 day) period, although the recovery time frame may be longer in children and adolescents.

Evaluation and diagnosis of concussion can include one or more of the following:

  • Symptoms (eg, headache, dizziness, confusion)
  • Physical Signs (eg, Loss of consciousness, amnesia)
  • Behavior changes (eg, irritability)
  • Cognitive impairment (eg, slowed reaction times)
  • Sleep disturbance (eg, insomnia)

After a concussion occurs, it is important to measure how well your brain functions post-injury.  Knowing this information can assist in planning an effective recovery.  At HaysMed, we believe that a comprehensive approach to concussion management starts before the injury occurs.  As a result, a valid baseline concussion test is the first step.

What is a Baseline Concussion Test?

These tests are typically taken in the pre-season.  Baseline tests are assessments that measure reaction time, memory capacity, speed of mental processing, concentration, and balance.  Results from the baseline tests can be used and compared to a similar exam conducted if an athlete has a suspected concussion.  The idea is that if we know how an individual athlete “normally” functions on such a test, after a concussion, the post-concussion scores can be one tool to help determine if and when they have sufficiently recovered from the concussion to safely return to play.

Why is it important to get a Baseline Test?

Each concussion is unique, so it is important to treat individuals on a case by case basis.  Comparing post-injury test scores of an individual to their own baseline test scores is considered best practice.  Without a baseline test to use for comparison, an individual’s scores can only be compared to the general population.  Also, because baseline testing occurs in the pre-season, the very act of getting tested will raise concussion awareness for athletes, parents, and coaches.  It must be emphasized that cognitive testing should not be the sole basis of management decisions.  Rather, it is seen as an aid to the decision making process in conjunction with a range of assessments and investigational results.  The final determination regarding concussion diagnosis and/or return to play is a medical decision based on clinical judgment and final clearance will still remain with the athlete’s physician.