The Role of Baseline Testing

Baseline neurocognitive assessment in sports is becoming more popular — and more useful for helping players better recover from one or more concussions.

See more videos with Dr. Jeffrey Barth.

Baseline neurocognitive assessment has become very popular in both the high school and professional games recently. The idea of doing a pre-assessment of individuals before they get their concussion, at the beginning of the season, and then being able to track their recovery over time after they've had their concussion has given us a lot of information as to how quickly the brain appears to recover. We know that in the college athlete, and the professional athlete, it looks like the recovery process is relatively quick. It's anywhere from a couple of days to a week to 10 days to recover from a concussion. What we don't know about is younger players. There has not been as much work with the high school players, and, in fact, with the middle school players there is almost nothing that we have in the scientific literature to look at their recovery curves. What we do know, though, is in animal models it looks like an immature brain does not recover as quickly as a mature brain. And this flies in the face of what we know about children, which is they seem to get better from every sort of other problem, medical problem, that they have. They get better quickly and are back to their usual selves. Well, that's not the case with a brain injury. So the younger you are, the more at risk you are for a longer recovery. And there again, if you have one head injury on top of another, if you haven't allowed that brain to recover fully, you run the risk of something either like Second-impact Syndrome or maybe, if you have the multiple injuries on top of each other, eventually having a long-term neurologic difficulty.
Posted on BrainLine October 20, 2010. Reviewed December 20, 2017.

Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Brian King, BrainLine.