Baseline testing for athletes

In the world of sports, concussions are the centre of attention and have been for the past few years for good reason.

Science continues to find out more about the effects of a concussion and what it can do to a person’s health in the short and long-term scenario.

At the same time, the medical community has been working to keep up with the findings by developing treatments as well as protocols for dealing with concussions.

Baseline testing for athletes is now a mainstream part of such high profile outfits like the NHL, the NFL and the Western Hockey League.

More recently, local sports teams and individuals have been able to use the same testing.

“With baseline you get a snapshot of what your normal is,” said Melanie Tuck, owner of Collegiate Sports Medicine.

For example, a person might have horrible balance and it’s always been that way so the test will determine this is normal for you and that’s your personal measurement, she said.

“The idea is everyone’s baseline is unique to them and every domain, whether it’s their word recall or their memory or reaction time.”

So if the person comes in after suffering a concussion a comparison can be made to those baseline measurements to determine any changes due to a head injury.

The SCAT 3 (Sport Concussion Assessment Tool) test involves balance testing, coordination, memory testing, both short and long-term and a lot of things that aren’t really done on the ImPACT test which was on the scene first.

“The ImPACT test is done on a computer so you can’t really test your balance as an example,” explained Tuck.

“Some of that is done on ImPACT and some of it is done on SCAT but together they form a good pair of tests.”

The baseline testing can be performed on athletes as young as 13 years old and up but for those younger there is a child’s test which is much simpler, she said.

“We can start as early as five so it’s validated for ages five to 12.”

Tuck credits the universities and colleges where research is taking place in developing these tools which allow people in her industry to be able to assess and treat patients in the what they feel is the right manner.

“The biggest thing is knowledge and so right now as the knowledge changes we just have to stay ahead of it or at least try to keep up with it then we can educate people the best that we can.”