The simplest definition of a concussion baseline test is a series of physical and cognitive tests that measure healthy brain function before a sports season starts – and prior to an injury.
Relying on symptoms to determine recovery is risky
Symptoms disappearing or going away after a concussion is considered a poor indication of brain recovery. If a concussed patient or athlete shows no more symptoms, this does not mean that they have fully recovered.
A concussion causes disturbances in brain cells, changes in blood flow to the brain, and a number of other functional issues.[1,2] Research shows that before full recovery from a concussion, the brain is weak and very vulnerable. Even smaller impacts could cause another concussion, which could result in severe brain injury or even death.[3,4]
The safest thing that a concussed athlete can do is to avoid returning to high-risk sports only after they have fully recovered from their concussion; not just from their symptoms, but also from a brain function standpoint. Sources show that this may take as long as 3 to 6 weeks.[5,6,7]
Relying on symptoms can make return to play decisions risky. Again, symptoms do not reflect recovery.
Further, symptoms reported by an injured athlete at rest are even more unreliable and risky. Why? Because blood flow and cognitive problems may only show up (or present) when someone is physically active or out of breath.[8,9,10,11,12]
How can a concussion baseline test help?
Baseline testing is a series of tests done before a sports season starts to assess different physical and cognitive systems that could be impacted by a concussion.
When properly used and interpreted, a concussion baseline test can add useful information to the management of sport-related concussions by giving healthcare practitioners insight into an athlete’s pre-injury function and ability. Simply, we have a better understanding of an athlete’s healthy state and where they should be when fully recovered.
Having access to these test scores after a concussion injury can provide healthcare practitioners with a set of personalized, objective data that could be used to make more informed and safer return to play decisions for an injured athlete.
What to look for in a concussion baseline test?
Baseline testing is more than just a computerized neurocognitive test. These are proven to be insufficient on their own, and can have reliability and validity issues. [14,15,16,17,18,19]
A multi-modal, comprehensive baseline test has many tests, which has shown to have better reliability and utility.
This is why Complete Concussion Management has developed the most comprehensive series of tests, which includes concussion and medical history, symptom score, orientation, auditory memory, concentration, visual tracking and processing speed, balance, postural sway, reaction time, delayed recall, neurocognitive testing and more.
The more tests, the better. Experts continue to agree that no one test is sufficient to detect the full spectrum of concussion.
Interested in learning more or want to book a comprehensive baseline test? Contact a Complete Concussion Management clinic near you.
 Giza CC, Hovda DA. The New Neurometabolic Cascade of Concussion. Neurosurgery. 2014;75:S24–S33.
 Signoretti S, Lazzarino G, Tavazzi B, Vagnozzi R. The Pathophysiology of Concussion. PM&R. 2011;3(10):S359–68.
 Vagnozzi R, Tavazzi B, Signoretti S, Amorini AM, Belli A, Cimatti M, et al. Temporal window of metabolic brain vulnerability to concussions. Neurosurgery. 2007;61(2):379–89.
 Vagnozzi R, Signoretti S, Tavazzi B, Cimatti M, Amorini AM, Donzelli S, et al. Hypothesis of the Postconcussive Vulnerable Brain: Experimental Evidence of Its Metabolic Occurrence. Neurosurgery. 2005;57(1):164–71.
 Vagnozzi R, Signoretti S, Cristofori L, Alessandrini F, Floris R, Isgro E, et al. Assessment of metabolic brain damage and recovery following mild traumatic brain injury: a multicentre, proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic study in concussed patients. Brain. 2010;133(11):3232–42.
 Vagnozzi RR, Signoretti SS, Tavazzi BB, Floris RR, Ludovici AA, Marziali SS, et al. Temporal window of metabolic brain vulnerability to concussion: a pilot 1H-magnetic resonance spectroscopic study in concussed athletes–part III. Neurosurgery 2008;62(6):1286–6.
 Signoretti S, Vagnozzi R, Tavazzi B, Lazzarino G. Biochemical and neurochemical sequelae following mild traumatic brain injury- summary of experimental data and clinical implications. Neurosurg Focus. 2010;29(5):1–12.
 Baker JG, Freitas MS, Leddy JJ, Kozlowski KF, Willer BS. Return to Full Functioning after Graded Exercise Assessment and Progressive Exercise Treatment of Postconcussion Syndrome. Rehabilitation Research and Practice. 2012;2012:1–7.
 Leddy JJ, Baker JG, Kozlowski K, Bisson L, Willer B. Reliability of a graded exercise test for assessing recovery from concussion. Clin J Sport Med. 2011;21(2):89–94.
 Len TK, Neary JP. Cerebrovascular pathophysiology following mild traumatic brain injury. Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging 2011;31:85-93.
 Whyte EF, Gibbons N, Kerr G, Moran KA. The Effect of a High Intensity, Intermittent Exercise Protocol on Neurocognitive Function in Healthy Adults: Implications for Return to Play Management Following Sport Related Concussion. J Sport Rehabil. 2014 (Epub ahead of print).
 McGrath N, Dinn WM, Collins MW, Lovell MR, Elbin RJ, Kontos AP. Post-exertion neurocognitive test failure among student-athletes following concussion. Brain Inj. 2013;27(1):103–13.
 Vartiainen MV, Holm A, Lukander J, Lukander K, Koskinen S, Bornstein R, et al. A novel approach to sports concussion assessment: Computerized multilimb reaction times and balance control testing. J Clin ExpNeuropsychol. 2015;1–15.
 McCrory P, Meeuwisse WH, Aubry M, Cantu B, Dvorak J, Echemendia RJ, et al. Consensus statement on concussion in sport: the 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport held in Zurich, November 2012. Br J Sports Med. 2013;47(5):250–8.
 Broglio SP, Ferrara MS, Macciocchi SN, Baumgartner TA, Elliott R. Test-retest reliability of computerized concussion assessment programs. J Athl Train. 2007 Oct;42(4):509–14.
 Resch J, Driscoll A, McCaffrey N, Brown C, Ferrara MS, Macciocchi S, et al. ImPact Test-Retest Reliability: Reliably Unreliable? J Athl Train. 2013 Jul;48(4):506–11.
 Kontos AP, Braithwaite R, Dakan S, Elbin RJ. Computerized Neurocognitive Testing within 1 Week of Sport-Related Concussion: Meta-analytic Review and Analysis of Moderating Factors. J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2014 Feb 13;20(03):324–32.
 Harmon KG, Drezner JA, Gammons M, Guskiewicz KM, Halstead M, Herring SA, et al. American Medical Society for Sports Medicine position statement: concussion in sport. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2012 Dec 13;47(1):15–26.
 Mayers LB, Redick TS. Clinical utility of ImPACT assessment for postconcussion return-to-play counseling: Psychometric issues. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology. 2012 Mar;34(3):235–42.