How Does the IMPACT Baseline Test for Athletes Really Work?

Retired Soccer Star Briana Scurry describes how the computerized baseline test works and how it is used for athletes who have sustained a concussion.

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[Briana Scurry] The IMPACT test is a test that is put together— it's like—games for your brain, essentially. So what you do is, you go into a room—there's a computer screen, the test is loaded on there, and it's completely quiet—and it's just you in there. And so, there's four or five different sets of tests on this IMPACT test—different modules. So the first module would be—okay— I'm going to flash three letters in three boxes for a certain amount of time, shut it off, and then you're supposed to say what the letters were. So that's the memory part of it. Another part of it is, there's a—a field of Xs and Os and some will be lit. And you look at it for a certain amount of time, and then it shuts off— and you have to pick where they were. So this is based on remembering where things were or what they were, but it's also based on how long it takes you to go through it. So the first baseline is—whatever a person is at. So you take the test—everybody takes it—just to get—you're only relevant to your own baselines. So it doesn't matter what mine is compared to Mia's— it just matters what Mia's is compared to Mia's. So that test can determine if the variation is too big between your current test and your baseline— then there's concern—then you stay out longer. But the closer you get to your baseline, that's how they can tell—at least with the cognitive part— that you're getting better. And it's—it's 10, 15 minutes— people have a little anxiety about it, because they're like, "Oh, I've got to go faster! Oh, I missed one!" And sometimes it's shapes that are up there on the screen, and then they take it away, then they put the shape up there again but it's rotated— and you have to be able to tell if it's the shape and if it's rotated or not. So you have to think about all these things. Well, if you're not doing well in your mind—if you have a concussion— then you're going to—you're not going to remember, or it's going to be the wrong way, or it's going to take too long— so there's all these things taken into account. But it's a good start to know where you are and where the team is and if something happens to someone, you can at least have someplace to start so you're not just out there, blind. It gives you—it gives you a place to start. The test provides a little bit of an understanding, but it's a—it's an interesting test, because you're not really sure how well you're doing. (Laughs) Unless you know you completely missed it. But you're not really sure about how you're doing on the time part of it. So—and that's important. You could get everything right, but if it took you forever to try to remember in your mind what the letters were or where the shapes were, then that's taken into account. And so—every time I came out of there, I was, like, in a cold sweat— because I was like (laughs), I knew I did poorly. You just—over the—over the time of the test or—or too fast. It has the letters up, it gives you the time, and then it goes on to the next thing if you're not fast enough on some of those modules. And so—it's frustrating, because you're like, "Oh, I missed it." And, "Oh—oh—again, I'm wrong." Or it tells you if you're wrong or right, and then—so you get all this buildup—and, so then the anxiety kicks in, which is the other symptoms you might have. And it affects you that way—but that's just— it's a frustrating test if you don't do well. And everybody has anxiety around it, though.
Posted on BrainLine January 22, 2014.

About the author: Briana Scurry

Briana Scurry is widely thought of as one of the world’s best female soccer goalkeepers. After being named starting goalkeeper for the United States women’s national soccer team in 1994, she helped lead the team in two Olympic gold medals (1996 and 2004), a World Cup  championship (1999), and she had 173 international appearances — a record among female soccer players.

Briana Scurry

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