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Baseline testing for concussions

Steven M. Erickson, MD, FACP, is a sports and internal medicine physician and medical director of the Banner Concussion Center. His office can be reached at (602) 839-7285. Visit Banner Concussion Center for more information.

Question: What is baseline testing for concussion and who should have it done?

Answer: Baseline testing for concussion is a form of neurocognitive or neurointegration testing used to gather objective information regarding an individual’s normal or baseline brain function. Since “normal” brain function differs from person to person, baseline testing gives clinicians a point of reference when later evaluating the neurological impact of an injury.

Baseline testing uses computerized programs to measure one’s ability to recognize, remember and react to words and pictures. The results provide a fingerprint of sorts to illustrate how the brain functions in a non-concussed state.

Since concussion also can impact balance and vision, Banner Concussion Center is one of few facilities in the country to offer comprehensive balance and visual integration testing to ensure a more complete and objective analysis of one’s overall brain function. Balance testing evaluates a person’s center of gravity and sway index, while vision testing measures eye movement and tracking.

Over the last decade, neurocognitive testing – performed both before and after injury – has become an important tool in managing sports-related concussions. However, the risk of concussion is not limited to athletes. Therefore, all individuals planning to engage in athletic or recreational activities as well as those whose job duties pose a risk of physical injury are encouraged to undergo baseline testing.

Whether young or old, athlete or not, the fingerprint of neurologic function identified through baseline testing ensures health care providers better understand the impact of a concussion should injury occur. Ultimately, the more knowledgeable providers are about the extent of a person’s injury, the better armed they are to treat it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a wealth of information about baseline testing for concussion and the importance of such testing for young athletes.

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