Can This Test Save Soccer Players from the Worst Concussion Effects?
Mar 26, 2020
Concussions are so dangerous in part because they are difficult to identify and monitor. It often takes a combination of assessments, scans and protocols to determine the severity of a concussion.
Many of these assessments rely on coaches and trainers to administer them correctly, which can leave many injured players on the field even after they’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury. It also puts the onus on players to accurately self-report symptoms, which is especially difficult if they’re young, or feeling confused and disoriented from being recently concussed.
One new development in this area is concussion baseline testing, which uses a combination of assessments that allow medical specialists to track brain function before and after concussions. Using these assessments, specialists can also monitor performance over time. For soccer players young and old, this type of testing can make a huge difference in their concussion treatment plan.
Let’s examine the details of concussion baseline testing, and determine how it can be used to evaluate a soccer player’s ongoing symptoms and level of risk for concussions.
What is Concussion Baseline Testing?
Essentially, concussion baseline testing is a testing protocol that uses two tests. One happens before the season begins, and establishes a measurable baseline for that player’s brain function, balance, and overall physical condition.
The second test is the same as the first, and occurs after a health professional suspects that the player has sustained a concussion. The results of the two tests are compared, allowing the assessor to see clearly whether the player is exhibiting any concussion symptoms.
If the results of the two tests are identical or similar, there’s likely no concussion present. If the results are visibly different, it’s quite easy to tell that a concussion has occurred.
Procedure, Biomarkers & Frequency Associated With Test
The concussion baseline test is typically administered by a health professional, and it’s recommended that athletes who play high speed or contact sports like soccer and football get tested every year. Coaches and health professionals do not recommend these tests for athletes under ten years of age, since they are developing so quickly that it renders the test invalid.
During the test, health professionals may assess a variety of factors, including the athlete’s balance, cognition, and reaction time. After the physical portion of the test, a paper-and-pencil test may be administered to assess concentration and memory.
Even though these tests are useful, research scientists are working harder than ever to identify biomarkers for concussions. Some research suggests that we may be getting close to identifying a biomarker that could diagnose a concussion with a simple blood test. An objective diagnostic tool like a blood test would be invaluable in quickly identifying concussions without needing to wait for costly neuroimaging like MRIs and CT scans.
Benefits of Concussion Baseline Testing for Soccer Players
As it stands now, concussion baseline testing is the most objective test that a health professional can use to identify a concussion in their office. Neuroimaging is useful, but machines are not always available.
Having an easy, inexpensive test that a doctor can do in their office makes a huge difference to athletes, quickly giving them accurate feedback about whether they have a concussion, and what measures they should be taking to safeguard their health.
What to Do With Results
An athlete that has completed concussion baseline testing is in a much better position than an athlete relying on other outdated concussion diagnostics. A health professional can use the results of the test to not only diagnose their concussion, but also give athletes more information on the effects of their injury, and what steps they should be taking during recovery.
When given as much information as possible, athletes and their families can make an informed decision on their next move. To protect the player’s head moving forward, doctors may recommend that athletes wear a protective soccer headguard. This type of concussion headgear fits securely around the forehead and back of the neck, and has been estimated to help lower the player’s risk for head injuries by as much as 84%, according to the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab’s rating of existing soccer headgear.
Protecting Yourself from Future Concussions
One of the primary benefits of concussion baseline testing is that it gives coaches and health professionals objective information about a player’s health. Instead of relying on testing methods that simply compare an athlete’s current condition to a general standard, concussion baseline testing gives objective information on how a player’s cognition, balance, and overall performance compares to their own healthy baseline. If you want to keep playing for a long time, concussion baseline testing can help you get there.Concussions are a major issue in soccer, and studies have shown that these painful and career-altering injuries are on the rise. If you want to take all possible precautions, our ExoShield HeadGuard has been independently tested to reduce impacts to the head by up to 50%. While it’s not a perfect solution and more studies are needed to confirm the extent of benefits in preventing concussions, it may be a useful tool that you can use to protect yourself from concussions, keeping you healthy and on the field as long as possible.