What is a Concussion?
A concussion is a type of brain injury caused by a blow, bump, or ‘jolt’ to the head that temporarily changes the way your brain works – causing you to experience certain symptoms like headaches and dizziness. A concussion may also occur from a blow to the body that causes your head to jolt back-and-forth or side-to-side. A concussion may or may not involve a loss of consciousness. In fact, very few concussions actually result in loss of consciousness.
Concussions can produce a wide array of symptoms, which poses a challenge for coaches, trainers, parents, and health professionals involved in the care of an injured athlete. The recovery time also varies widely from athlete to athlete, making it impossible to employ a “cookie-cutter” approach to concussion rehabilitation and return-to-participation timelines.
What is a Basline Test and Why is it Important?
Because concussions can be difficult to diagnose and test for, many health professionals recommend that athletes obtain a baseline test before the start of the sport season. A baseline test gives health professionals a point of reference or “snap shot” of your pre-season cognitive and physical function so that if you sustain a concussion, the after-injury results can be compared to your baseline test. Having a baseline test helps health professionals more accurately gauge the severity of your injury, objectively monitor your recovery, and determine when it is safe for you to return to play.
What are the Components of Shift’s Baseline Test?
Shift uses a combination of several testing strategies to obtain a comprehensive picture of each athlete:
Neurocognitive Testing (ImPACT®)
Shift uses the ImPACT test as part of all baseline assessments. ImPACT stands for Immediate Post-Concussion and Cognitive Testing, and is a computer-based test that takes about 30 minutes to complete. ImPACT measures things like memory, attention span, how quickly you process information, and how quickly you respond to certain instructions or tasks. ImPACT is the most widely used and most scientifically validated computerized concussion test available. Shift recommends that the ImPACT test be administered by a trained health professional.
Balance and Postural Stability
It is well established that balance and postural stability are often affected following a concussive injury. Because each athlete is unique and during any given season may be at a different level of physical development and athletic skill, Shift recommends adding a balance assessment to each pre-season test where possible.
Visual Coordination Screening
The visual system is often significantly impacted by a concussive injury. In many cases visual acuity or overall clarity of vision is not affected but the ability of the eyes to work together in a coordinated fashion. Symptoms of visual dysfunction after a concussion may include eye pain, dizziness, focusing issues, difficulty reading, and headache. Screening visual coordination skills at baseline aids health professionals in better identifying these issues after a concussion and recommend- ing the right form of therapy. It may be particularly useful for athletes with a history of multiple concussions, or with a history of visual symptoms (as above) with or without a previous concussion. Note: is testing is not comparable to an optometric exam and does not replace your routine optometric care.
After Injury Care
Athletes with a suspected concussion should seek medical assistance as early as possible with their Family MD, Sport Physician, or Pediatrician. Your doctor will determine if you have sustained a concussion and give you early recommendations for self-care.
- Individualized resting strategies and home instruction
- Modification of academic and/or employment demands
- Neurocognitive (ImPACT) re-assessment
- Physical erapy for associated complaints (neck pain, whiplash etc.)
- Rehabilitation: Balance, Coordination, and Vestibular-based
- Physical exertion testing and exercise plans for return-to-sport
- Visual coordination screening and oculomotor-based rehabilitation techniques
- Referral for specialized Optometric assessment where warranted