Friday, March 30, 2012

Baseline Test for Athletes - What Is It and Why Is It Necessary?

An athlete's mental health plays a role in his/her ability to recover from injury.

A fundamental, yet critical component of sports performance and athlete management is a baseline test. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) endorse the use this assessment tool to various professional and amateur sports groups. The National Football League (NFL), the Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Hockey League (NHL), and the National Basketball Association (NBA) have adopted a policy that mandates this step to ensure the health of their players.

Objectives and components of a baseline test

As a neurocognitive measure, this examination aims to provide a profile of an athlete's ability in terms of the following: verbal and visual memory, reaction time, and motor processing speed. Players usually undergo this test prior to the start of a season. It can also be conducted to gather information about an athlete's condition after he or she has completely recovered from a concussion.

Using either a pencil-paper option or a computer software program, it may take several days or weeks to finish. Should a player gets injured, a qualified medical expert compares his or her pre-season baseline test and post-injury scores. The result of this assessment influences the decision of allowing or prohibiting an athlete to play again.  

Importance of baseline testing

Besides assessing one's mental prowess, the results of a baseline test enable a medical practitioner to formulate an appropriate plan for rehabilitation and training. This is considered a good practice in concussion management as it gives an objective feedback about a player's chances of recovery. 

Additionally, baseline test scores provide athletes themselves, as well as their parents and coaches, a comforting and positive perspective about their condition, particularly the possibility of returning to their normal level of performance. Said testing gives necessary safety data that can be used to avoid further injury.
Concussion management supports the use of a computer-based baseline test.

Preparing for possible concussion - A reminder for coaches

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) describes a concussion as a risk factor for all players of any sport. Coaches need to be concerned about keeping their athletes healthy and in good condition, as this improves their chances of winning.

As a competent guide of sports players, a coach should be prepared in case his or her team suffers from having an injured member. Thus, it is advisable to have a concussion management plan and to assign someone to lead or to execute the initial steps specified in such a plan. A directory of each player's family members and their contact numbers, as well as emergency medical personnel should also be made. Moreover, every player should know the signs and symptoms of a concussion.

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