Baseline testing helps doctors assess concussions in youth sports

The baseline testing assesses cognitive functioning, reaction time, memory and how the subject processes information.
The baseline testing assesses cognitive functioning, reaction time, memory and how the subject processes information.

The parents of 10-year-olds have enough to worry about raising their kids, including the risk of traumatic brain injury if the children are involved in competitive contact sports. Hockey, soccer, football and basketball players have a risk of concussions. In hockey alone, there are chances a player will hit the wall, the ice or another player, which is a leading cause of traumatic brain injury. The plaintiff personal injury lawsuits filed by former NFL players increased the attention paid to athletes and injury, from the professional leagues to youth sports. While the 10-year-old hockey players are not hitting as hard as the high school students, it is important to educate and train both players and parents about concussions and their prevention and treatment.

A baseline test makes a record of healthy brain function and balance, before a concussion.

Among the education and prevention curriculum, baseline cognitive testing allows physicians to establish the normal brain function and balance testing in a healthy state. If a child suffers a head injury or significant impact, post-injury testing can be performed and the results can be compared against the baseline test, to help determine the level of injury, helping parents, coaches and physicians determine recovery protocol and assess how long a student athlete should be sidelined during the healing process.

The baseline testing assesses cognitive functioning, reaction time, memory and how the subject processes information. Conducting the same testing some time after the baseline testing allows physicians to measure any changes in immediate recall and accuracy in recalling information. When an individual suffers a traumatic brain injury, there is a measurable change in how fast the concussed individual thinks, remembers and can concentrate; the worse the injury the more profound the change.

Teaching children to recognize concussion symptoms increases the opportunity for proper treatment.

Interpretations of some studies lead researchers to believe that girls are more prone to concussions than boys playing the same sports. Some theories suggest that girls’ necks are not as strong which could lead to easier concussions, while others think girls might be more likely to report injuries and symptoms to doctors and nurses than the boys who don’t want to claim an injury.  It is important to teach children what to look for and what a concussion is. Kristen in Ohio, the parent of a 10-year-old hockey player shared her experience in educating her child, “I kind of explained it to him that your brain is in your head and if it hits real hard on a solid spot it’s shaking in there and that’s what causes the damage,” Kristin said[i].

The symptoms of concussions that young athletes, parents and coaches can be aware of include dizziness, headache, nausea, balance, fatigue and sensitivity to light and noise. Symptoms can be less prevalent immediately following major impact and can increase in severity in the time following the injury event. If there is a time delay between injury and noticing symptoms, there can be a disconnect between the symptoms and their underlying cause, if it indeed was a head injury, therefore awareness and education about traumatic brain injury is important.[ii]

Researching and identifying baseline testing opportunities is suggested to parents of young athletes.

In educating and working to prevent concussions, experts suggest young athletes brains be protected by proper fitting equipment, skills and form training, and the use of baseline testing. Some schools and athletic organizations offer baseline cognitive testing for young athletes. In the event, however, your child(ren)’s school or sports club does not offer baseline testing, many local doctors might be available to measure and track cognitive brain functioning in healthy children to measure against follow-up testing in the event of a sports injury where there might be a concussion.

Michael V. Favia & Associates is a health law and litigation law firm focused on helping educate and prevent concussion injuries as well as representing injured clients. With offices conveniently located in the Chicago Loop, Northwest side and suburban meeting locations, you can schedule a discrete meeting with an attorney at your convenience and discretion. For more about Michael V. Favia & Associates’ professional licensing work, please visit and feel free to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” the firm on Twitter.

[i] WBNS-10TV, Central Ohio, Baseline Testing: Critical Part of Concussion Care, by Tracy Townsend, Nov. 5, 2015.

[ii] See HNi above.