What is a Baseline Test?

A Baseline test is a term for any test used before a treatment or activity. It is one tool in an effective concussion management program because it measures what we can’t see--brain function. In 2001, the first International Conference on Concussion in Sport recognized cognitive Baseline testing as "one of the cornerstones of concussion evaluation and contributes significantly to both the understanding of the injury and the management of the individual." Today, Baseline testing is a recommended best practice by the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

How it Works

As part of a proactive concussion management program, an Athlete takes a Baseline test before the sports season begins (or when uninjured). After creating an account at Cogstate, they can take a Baseline test in eight to 10 minutes; share results with Parents, Coaches, Athletic Trainers, and Physicians; and store for future use. The Cogstate Computerized Cognitive Assessment Tool (CCAT) features four simple tasks with playing cards.

Preseason Baseline Testing

A Baseline test, together with a preseason evaluation, is an essential part of the concussion management process. The Cogstate CCAT may be supervised by responsible adults, such as Parents, Guardians, Athletic Trainers, Nurses, Technicians, Teachers, and Coaches, who can help ensure an environment free from distractions and an Athlete’s “best effort.” Test results are easily understood by looking for a green checkmark (acceptable) or a red X (try again). 

Three Important Points

Keep these points in mind when conducting Baseline tests with Athletes:  

  1. Be sure to practice the test at least once before completing a “regular test.” (it only takes three minutes and is available at no charge)
  2. Encourage Athletes to give the test their “best effort” in an environment free from distractions
  3. Complete Baseline tests in the preseason, before the first contact practice, or at least yearly

After Injury - Where will your Baseline Test Result be When you Need it?

If an Athlete becomes concussed, they should seek appropriate medical attention. When all concussion symptoms have resolved, under the care of a Healthcare Provider an Athlete can perform an After Injury test. This test is identical to the Baseline test because repeating the same tasks after the injury identifies any cognitive changes from the Baseline test performance. This ability to compare results helps indicate whether the brain has fully recovered. 

Concussion causes subtle changes in the speed and accuracy of cognition (thinking). These changes are usually the last symptoms to go away after a concussion and they can be very slight. In fact, it is very difficult to detect them without a computerized test which compares an individual to themselves when they were “normal.” This means that a Baseline test in the preseason, before any injury occurs is essential.

Healthcare Providers use the test results (comparing Baseline to After Injury Test results) in making decisions about when it is safe for Athletes to return to play or to the classroom. 


 

Supervise Athletes in an environment free from distractions. Encourage Athletes to put away their cell phones, take a Practice test, follow the instructions, stay focused, relax and give it their best effort.

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