Why baseline concussion tests are important for young athletes

Why baseline concussion tests are important for young athletes

With spring sports in full swing, athletes and parents should be reminded of the importance of baseline concussion testing, which can help health care providers better assess and safely return athletes to the field of play.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is defined as a traumatic brain injury caused by a blow to the head that causes the brain to move inside the skull, creating chemical changes within it that disrupt brain cells. Symptoms can include headache or “pressure” in the head, nausea or vomiting, balance problems, dizziness, blurry vision, sensitivity to light or noise, feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, confusion, concentration or memory problems, and/or loss of consciousness.

What is baseline concussion testing?

A baseline test is a neuropsychological test that can be performed by either computer or paper and pen. It provides our health care providers a measurement of the brain’s cognitive function. If a concussion does occur, our health care providers can compare the current state of cognitive function with the original baseline test.

What do baseline concussion tests measure?

Baseline concussion tests are designed to measure the cognitive function of the brain. Varying tools and devices can measure balance, memory, reaction time and visual acuity. At the Marshall Sports Medicine Institute, we use a variety of different devices including ImPact, ImPact Pediatric, C3 Logix and King Devick depending on the age of the patient. Once a patient performs a baseline concussion test, the information is kept on a HIPAA-approved device. If a concussion does occur, the baseline test will be compared to the follow up concussion test.  Although devices provide valuable information, we do not use the test as a standalone diagnosis, but as a way to evaluate the concussion and return to cognitive function.

How often should an athlete receive a baseline concussion test?

The CDC recommends that baseline concussion tests be repeated biannually; however, if a concussion occurs, a new baseline test should be administered the following year. Baseline concussion testing can be performed on kids as young as 5-years-old. The CDC highly recommends kids who are 10-years-old or older and play sports receive a baseline concussion test.

At the Marshall Sports Medicine Institute our health care providers offer FREE baseline concussion testing for children, aged 5 and older.  If you are interested in scheduling a baseline concussion test for your child, please call our office at 304-691-1880.


Tom Belmaggio, MS, ATC, CSCS

Tom is the coordinator of sports medicine at the Marshall Sports Medicine Institute. Career highlights include serving as head athletic trainer for Marshall University, an intern for the Dallas Cowboys Football Club, a game day EMS crew for the Tennessee Titans and an athletic trainer for the New England Patriots.