Is Baseline Concussion Testing Right For You?
November 2, 2021
Did you know there’s a test that can aid your recovery if you sustain a concussion?
Read on to get the facts about baseline testing from Michelle Gambino-Gorney, a certified athletic trainer for Henry Ford Health System.
What Is Baseline Concussion Testing?
“Baseline testing is an evaluation of your normal brain function that tests for neurocognitive abnormalities,” explains Gambino-Gorney. “We recommend baseline testing prior to the start of a sports season, before tryouts or practice.”
During baseline concussion testing, athletic trainers or physicians collect extensive information about an athlete’s brain health. They evaluate health, family history and neurocognitive function. Gambino-Gorney says that might include assessing everything from balance and reflexes to memory, vision and concentration. “If the athlete does sustain a concussion during the season, we can compare pre-injury test results to post-injury test results and find out how the injury is affecting an athlete’s brain. It helps us make the right recovery plan and determine when it’s safe for them to return to their sport.”
Myth: Concussion Baseline Testing Is Only for Football Players
While baseline testing is ideal for athletes (ages 9 and up) who play high-impact collision sports, any athlete at risk of a concussion should consider baseline testing. This includes football, lacrosse and hockey players, in addition to gymnasts, snowboarders, skateboarders and lots of other athletes.
In fact, even if you just take the occasional weekend bike ride, go jogging or lift weights, there’s no harm in having baseline test results on file. Pre-concussion screenings can also benefit people with physically demanding jobs, such as first responders, military personnel and tactical athletes.
Myth: You Only Need to Get Baseline Testing Once
Just as your joints and muscles change as you get older, your brain changes, too. It’s best to get annual baseline testing. Yearly tests help your healthcare team keep track of your brain health over time. They can spot problems or changes early, before they develop into serious issues. Ask your physician about baseline neurocognitive testing as part of your annual sports physical.
Myth: Baseline Testing Is Only Useful If You Get a Concussion
First and foremost, baseline testing tracks your physical and mental well-being. Even if you never sustain a concussion, the test is a way to stay proactive about your brain health. Gambino-Gorney explains that they can look at test results across seasons to detect changes in neurocognitive function that can indicate disorders such as:
► Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
► Learning disabilities
Myth: Baseline Testing Diagnoses a Concussion
Baseline testing is not a diagnostic tool for concussions. It’s one piece of all the information a healthcare provider needs to determine if you sustained a mild traumatic brain injury. In addition to comprehensive neurocognitive testing, your provider assesses a broad range of concussion signs and symptoms to confirm a diagnosis after you’ve sustained an impact to your head.
To find a primary care or sports medicine specialist at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-436-7936.
Michelle Gambino-Gorney is a certified athletic trainer in the Henry Ford Kutcher Clinic for Concussion and Sports Neurology.
Sports Injuries & Student Athletes: A Parent’s Guide
March 7, 2023
Playing sports is a great way for children of all ages to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It also builds confidence and teaches them valuable life lessons, like working as a team and the value of hard work. While it may be every sports fanatic’s dream to have their kid make it big time in the arena or on the diamond, sometimes pushing young athletes to be the best at a young age can lead to serious injuries that will take them out of the game altogether.
"Sports help with physical and psychological well-being," says Matthew Santa Barbara, M.D., a sports medicine physician at Henry Ford Health. "However, year-round participation in a single sport at a young age can lead to overuse injuries and mental burnout."
Nowadays, many kids will start playing one sport at a young age and continue to play that same sport year-round for years. This can be harmful to your child because his or her soft tissue and bone structures aren't fully developed. Furthermore, the pressures of year-round participation and focus on excelling, rather than enjoyment, can negatively affect a young athlete's mental health.
Basketball causes the most injuries among high schoolers, causing many visits to the emergency room each year for stressed and torn ankle ligaments. In baseball, the Tommy John surgery, a procedure to reconstruct torn ligaments in the elbow after overuse, has also been increasingly used to treat young athletes still in high school.
How To Prevent Sports Injuries
Preparing your children appropriately before a sports season begins and supporting them during the season is important. Dr. Santa Barbara offers four key pieces of advice to help your youth athletes avoid injury.
1. Don’t limit your child to one sport. Playing a variety of sports in different seasons is a great way to work different parts of the body. When your child gets older, they can make the transition to playing a single sport they are good at and enjoy.
2. Warm up. Make sure your child is properly warming up before they play any sport. Dynamic warmups--incorporating exercises that involve moving the body such as lunges, high knees and arm circles – are preferable to stretching alone.
3. Strengthen core muscles. Building up core strength takes pressure off joints in the arms and legs. It gives young athletes more momentum and can help improve their performance.
4. Abide by rest rules. Many schools and sports leagues have rules in place to limit how many teams kids are on or how often they play. Follow these to ensure your child is allowing time for their joints and muscles to recover from physical activity.
Children participating in a sport should never push through pain, and injuries should be promptly evaluated by a sports medicine physician. Physical injuries are often more obvious, while mental health issues due to sports participation can be more subtle. Symptoms such as fatigue and declining performance can be signs of burnout. In these situations, rest is also important.
"Sports should be fun for kids," says Dr. Santa Barbara. "Avoiding single-sports specialization at a young age keeps the focus on enjoyment while reducing the physical and psychological risks of year-round participation."
To find a sports medicine provider at Henry Ford Health, visit henryford.com/sportsmedicine or call 313-651-1969.
Matthew Santa Barbara, M.D., is a non-operative sports medicine physician at Henry Ford Health. He sees patients at the Henry Ford Center for Athletic Medicine in Detroit, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, Henry Ford Medical Center - Columbus, Henry Ford Medical Center - Bloomfield Township and Henry Ford Medical Center - Fairlane.