Concussion Testing

Baseline and follow-up tests for safety

Concussions can occur at all levels of sports – from amateur to professional. And many athletes who suffer concussions go untreated or return to play before they are fully recovered. Desert Regional’s Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment Test (ImPACT) program can provide your child or teen athlete with pre-season baseline tests and post-concussion tests to monitor brain injury.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is classified as a traumatic brain injury, or TBI. It is caused by a direct blow or jolt to the head. That blow causes the brain to move vigorously against the interior of the skull and potentially damage brain cells. When brain cells are damaged, it causes an imbalance of chemical and electrical functions that are necessary for proper cell function and cognition.

The majority of concussions do not result in permanent damage to the brain, but it’s possible that recurring incidents can cause severe, life-threatening injuries.

Signs and symptoms

Depending on how severe the impact is, symptoms of concussion can vary. Most people who suffer minor concussions recover fully without medical attention. Others experience symptoms lasting months or years. Here’s what you should look for:

  • Physical signs: Headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and/or noise, imbalance, visual problems, slurred speech, fatigue, numbness or tingling of the head, face or hands
  • Cognitive signs: Difficulty concentrating, responding to questions slowly or repeating questions, forgetfulness, confusion, memory loss
  • Emotional signs: Irritability, sadness, nervousness
  • Sleep-related signs: Drowsiness, sleeping less or more than normal, trouble falling asleep 

Seek immediate medical help if these symptoms worsen or if any of the following develop:

  • Headaches that worsen
  • Seizures
  • Neck pain
  • Difficulty in staying awake
  • Constant vomiting
  • Increased confusion or irritation
  • Weakness/numbness in the arms and legs
  • Inability to recognize people or places

Testing and diagnosis 

A doctor diagnoses concussions based on feedback from the person who has been injured. In the case of athletes, they can sometimes fail to give accurate feedback because they want to continue playing. It is critical that your child is truthful; this helps the doctor determine the severity of an injury. The ImPACT concussion management program also helps fill out the picture.

An ImPACT baseline is a series of neurocognitive computerized assessment tests given before a sports season begins. The score can then be compared to the same tests given 24 to 72 hours after a suspected concussion. The computerized assessment tests:

  • Attention span
  • Working memory
  • Sustained and selective attention time
  • Response variability
  • Non-verbal problem-solving
  • Reaction time

These assessments are combined with a neurologist’s findings for vision, hearing, strength/sensation/ balance, coordination and reflexes.

Pre-season baseline tests are suggested for athletes who plan to play contact sports, such as football, soccer, baseball and wrestling. They should be taken once every two years during middle and high school. The Desert Regional staff can then track your child’s cognitive status throughout the season, which helps you and the child’s coach make any difficult return-to-play decisions. Test results are presented as a PDF file and can be emailed.

Are you interested in having your athletic child tested? For an appointment or more information on the concussion management program, call (760) 416-4511.