What is a concussion?
A concussion can be simply defined as a disruption in neurological functioning following a significant impact to the head or elsewhere on the body. This causes a biochemical imbalance within brain cells as well as decreased blood flow and temporary energy deficits within the brain.
Following a suspected concussion, a player should be immediately removed from play, assessed and placed on complete rest in order to recover from the energy deficit. Studies have shown that any activity, both mental and physical, in the immediate days following concussion can delay the process of recovery and should be avoided until the athlete is completely symptom free.
What is baseline testing?
The biggest concern surrounding concussions comes from the energy deficit that occurs in the brain following injury. When the brain is in this low energy state, it has been well established that the brain is extremely vulnerable to additional trauma, where even smaller impacts can lead to another concussion; and these second concussions can cause severe brain injuries with potentially permanent or fatal outcomes.
The problem is that symptoms (meaning how someone feels) do not coincide with brain recovery. The only way to know when the brain has fully recovered and out of this “vulnerable period” is to compare current brain function to when the individual was healthy; this is what is known as a “baseline test”.
A baseline test is a battery of tests that measures every area of brain function that could potentially become affected following a concussion (you need more than computer tests!!). The reason that the test is termed a “baseline” is because it is done BEFORE the athlete gets injured. In order to know when an athlete has fully recovered, we first have to know where they were when they were healthy. Without having this information, there is no way to truly know when an athlete has fully recovered and is safe to return to their sport.
Baseline testing is the most important thing to get done prior to beginning your sports season on a yearly basis.
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