One afternoon your daughter arrives home from her regular lacrosse practice and tells you she’s not feeling very well. She’s complaining about a headache and a sore neck. You tell her to take two Tylenol from your medicine cabinet and do her homework. Neither of you gives the situation a second thought until later that night. That’s when you find her asleep at her desk mid-homework. Could that headache and sore neck she was talking about earlier be something more? Could it be a concussion?

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury. It can be caused by either a bump, blow or jolt to the head that causes the brain to move back and forth rapidly inside the skull. The symptoms of a concussion include headache, blurred vision, nausea, dizziness and/or feeling groggy or sleepy.

Today, health professionals can do more than treat the symptoms of a concussion. Instead, they can administer a concussion test to accurately determine if your child has suffered from this type of traumatic brain injury. But first and foremost, you, the parent can be proactive in terms of your child’s brain health. Encourage your son or daughter to undergo concussion baseline testing before they ever step foot onto the playing field for the season.

What is concussion baseline testing?

Concussion baseline testing is a pre-season assessment conducted by a trained health care professional. The test is used to assess your son’s or daughter’s brain function. It allows for a normal or pre-injury test comparison should your child suffer a head injury. Testing their memory skills, ability to concentrate, balance, and how quickly he or she can solve problems are all part of the evaluation.

Baseline testing provides a measure of your child’s normal cognitive functioning. After a blow to the head, signs of head injury can be detected by comparing new test scores to your child’s baseline scores. Such a practice is particularly important for children involved in contact sports such as football, rugby, hockey and soccer.

How is baseline testing used?

If you suspect your child has suffered a concussion, results of the baseline test administered before their sport season began can be invaluable. In a situation where your child has suffered a head injury, immediately consult your child’s physician to ensure they get the medical attention they need. Additionally, whether it’s their doctor or another health care professional that administered the initial baseline test, now is the time to conduct a second concussion test. The physician or health care professional will be able to compare your child’s post-injury test results to those of his or her baseline test results. This can help more precisely identify the extent of your child’s head injuries.

How often should an athlete undergo baseline testing?

Unless your child has suffered a concussion during the playing season, a baseline test should be administered every year. However, if he or she has sustained a concussion or has a medical condition that might affect the results of the test, an evaluation should be administered more frequently. Concussion testing can also be administered while your child is recovering from the injury, as well as when they are symptom-free but before they resume playing. In such cases, concussion testing can help track your child’s brain recovery from the injury that sidelined them.

When can my child play sports again?

Most athletes can return to team sports a couple of weeks after suffering a concussion. The most common treatment for this type of traumatic brain injury is rest and relaxation. However, it’s important to check with your child’s primary care physician before letting them participate in any physical activity. The most common problem with returning to sports too soon after a concussion is that the symptoms which would normally take only a few weeks to heal, will now take a few months. It’s also important to remember that a concussion can affect your child’s academic performance. It can be the cause of poor marks or prolonged fatigue. That’s why a few extra days of rest could make a world of a difference regarding your child’s overall well-being.

Whether your children are involved in hockey, football or any other contact sports, as a parent your goal is to ensure they are performing at their optimum. A concussion baseline test provides peace of mind, and allows them to play the sports they love while remaining safe for years to come.