Concussion baseline testing

with advice from Mitch Kaye, PT

With fall sports around the corner, many student athletes are preparing for their annual physicals. Parents and coaches should consider getting concussion baseline testing done as part of these physicals, to help test for concussion symptoms later during activity.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a concussion is “a traumatic brain injury that affects your brain function.” It can be caused by a direct hit to the brain or just by a violent shaking of the head, like whiplash after a car accident or the body jolting from an impact elsewhere on the body. 

Because less than 10% of concussions lead to the person passing out, parents and coaches need to be aware of how to test for possible concussions. This allows them to determine when it’s safe for a player to return to the field, and when it’s better for a player to sit on the bench to allow their brain to recuperate. Baseline testing before the season even begins can be a good way to measure later possible concussions.

Mitch Kaye, a physical therapist and the Director of Quality Assurance at PTPN (the parent company of Physiquality), explains that baseline testing allows physical therapists and other healthcare professionals to measure athletes’ abilities when there is no sign the athlete has had a concussion. Such testing will measure the athlete’s

  • Balance
  • Memory skills
  • Attention span
  • Problem-solving skills

If the athlete has a collision while on the field and there is a chance of a concussion, the PT or healthcare provider can give the athlete the same test to determine whether the athlete’s abilities may have been affected by a concussion.

Photograph of two football teams lining up to face each other at the line of scrimmage on a football field.

The Mayo Clinic notes that while one concussion is dangerous, repeated concussions can lead to permanent damage and even fatal swelling of the brain. If an athlete has had a concussion, they should work with their physical therapist or healthcare provider to understand how long they should rest and let their brain heal, then gradually return to activity.

Parents, athletes and coaches should work together to create a safe sports environment. The CDC Heads Up project has a variety of resources for coaches, parents and athletes on ways to create a safe environment reducing the risk of repeated concussions. As the project reminds parents, “It’s better to miss one game than the whole season.”

Thank you to our contributors:

Mitch Kaye, PT, is the Director of Quality Assurance for PTPN, the parent company of Physiquality. He oversees all aspects of utilization review and case management for the entire PTPN network, and trains and supervises PTPN’s Quality Assurance and Utilization Management staff. In addition, he is responsible for creating and updating case management, utilization management, quality assurance, and clinical integration and outcomes guidelines for the network.

Mayo Clinic.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

American Physical Therapy Association. Physical therapy guide to concussion. ChoosePT website, March 7, 2018.

CDC Foundation TBI. Get a Heads Up: What is a concussion? YouTube, March 22, 2013.

“Straight up concussed and still in the game. #hockey #hardcore” by twodolla is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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