Concussions and Baseline Testing; Stay Ahead of the Game

It’s a common word in the world of sport, vehicle collisions, and falls. But what is a concussion? How can we plan an appropriate recovery? and What exactly does Baseline Testing have to do with it?

What is a Concussion?

A concussion is defined as a mild traumatic brain injury, caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. Imagine your head as a jar of peaches. If the jar is shaken, the surface of the peaches will be damaged and bruised. The peaches represent the human brain and the jar is the hard interior surface of the skull. The bruising and damage to the peaches depicts the injury to the brain tissues. This brain injury often causes visible or painful symptoms which are associated with a concussion.

Concerning symptoms may include: (Continue to watch for these symptoms, if present seek assessment by a health professional)

  • Can’t recall events prior to or after a hit or fall.
  • Appears dazed or stunned.
  • Forgets an instruction, is confused about an assignment or position, or is unsure of the game, score, or opponent.
  • Moves clumsily.
  • Answers questions slowly.
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly).
  • Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes.

Individual may report feeling:

  • Just not “feeling right,” or “feeling down”
  • Headache or “pressure” in head.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Balance problems or dizziness, or double or blurry vision.
  • Bothered by light or noise.
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy.
  • Confusion, or concentration or memory problems.

Dangerous symptoms may include:  (Call 9-1-1 or go to Emergency right away)

  • One pupil larger than the other.
  • Drowsiness or inability to wake up.
  • A headache that gets worse and does not go away.
  • Slurred speech, weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination.
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea, convulsions or seizures (shaking or twitching).
  • Unusual behavior, increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation.
  • Loss of consciousness (passed out/knocked out). Even a brief loss of consciousness should be taken seriously.

Concussion Recovery

When a concussion occurs, the body rapidly loses energy stores because of brain cell damage. This loss of energy lasts 3-5 days. When concussed individuals follow a proper recovery plan, recovery can happen 3-6 weeks. If a proper recovery is not followed, individuals are more vulnerable to secondary brain traumas occurring with far lower impact force. When secondary traumas occur before complete healing of the first trauma, lifelong symptoms begin to develop.

Concussions are a “silent injury”; this means there are no visible injuries to validate any damage. Symptoms of concussions do not always reflect actual damage. Many individuals feel no symptoms of a trauma, when there are indeed impairments. The only way to determine how injured an individual is, or whether an individual is ready to return to activity is to compare their current abilities to their abilities prior to the accident. This is called a Baseline Test.

Baseline Testing

Baseline testing is short test conducted by a trained health care professional, usually done pre-season for athletes. Baseline tests assess individuals’ balance and brain function (including learning and memory skills, ability to pay attention or concentrate, and how quickly he or she thinks and solve problems). Baseline tests also look for the presence of any existing concussion symptoms. Results from baseline tests (or pre-injury tests) are then compared to a similar exam conducted by a health care professional in the future if the individual has a suspected concussion.

Athletes playing in contact sports should be assessed each year pre-season, as well as tested after every head trauma to determine an effective recovery and treatment plan. Having comparative baseline data is the best way to detect whether athletes have fully recovered from the injury and can safely return to their regular physical activities.

At Leduc Physio Baseline tests are conducted by our physiotherapists and kinesiologists. Recovery and treatment plans for head traumas are created and followed-up by our physiotherapists. They can help you understand your head trauma, give you recommendations on how to recover, and determine how to return to activity.

If you or your team is interested in having pre-season baseline testing done, please contact Leduc Physio at (780) 980-5443.