Concussion Management Program FAQ

FAQs about Baseline Testing among Young Athletes

To help answer some common questions about baseline testing among young athletes, the Centers for Disease Control has compiled a list of frequently asked questions to help you, your school or your league prepare for concussions both pre- and post- sports season.

What is baseline testing?
Baseline testing is a pre-season exam conducted by a trained health care professional. Baseline tests assess an athlete’s balance and brain function including learning and memory skills, the ability to pay attention or concentrate, and how quickly he or she thinks and solves problems. The test also determines the presence of any concussion symptoms. Baseline tests (or pre-injury tests) are compared to a similar exam conducted by a health care professional during the season if an athlete has a suspected concussion. Baseline testing should take place pre-season—ideally prior to the first practice. It is important to note that some baseline and concussion assessment tools are only suggested for use among athletes ages 10 years and older.

How is baseline testing information used if an athlete has a suspected concussion?
Results from baseline tests are used if an athlete has a suspected concussion by comparing post-injury test results to baseline test results. This helps health care professionals identify the effects of the injury and make informed decisions about athletes returning to school and sports. If an athlete has a suspected concussion, parents and athletes should be educated about safely returning to school and play, tips to aid in recovery (such as rest), danger signs and when to seek immediate care, and how to reduce an athlete’s risk for a future concussion.

What does baseline testing involve?
Baseline testing includes a check for concussion symptoms, as well as balance and cognitive (concentration and memory) assessments. Computerized or paper-pencil neuropsychological tests may be included to assess an athlete’s concentration, memory and reaction time. During the baseline pre-season test, health care professionals should also test for a prior history of concussion, including past symptoms and length of recovery from the injury. It is also important to record other medical conditions that could impact recovery after concussion, such as a history of migraines, depression, mood disorders or anxiety, as well as learning disabilities and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.