Baseline concussion testing for coaches

A recent study conducted by Korrio and Axon Sports, two leaders in youth sports management and concussion science, reported that while about 75 percent of youth soccer coaches have received training on how to identify the signs of a concussion post-injury, almost half were unfamiliar with baseline testing.

For coaches seeking another way to test for concussions, having a baseline test can be a very helpful tool.

The method's core principle is pre-screening. At the beginning of each season, the athlete takes the test in an uninjured state. Any previous concussions are noted, and the score on the pre-season test becomes the athlete's "baseline." In the event of any head trauma, the test is immediately retaken. An athlete with a score below the baseline by a given margin should be screened by a medical professional.

There are many tests to choose from, both pen-and-paper and computer-based, and most are quick and simple to conduct. Perhaps the most comprehensive tool that can be found for free online or downloaded as a smartphone app is the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 2 (SCAT2).

The SCAT2 is employed by such organizations as FIFA, the International Rugby Board and the International Olympic Committee. Along with physical and cognitive tests, it also incorporates two additional evaluation criteria, the Standardized Assessment of Concussion (SAC) and the Maddocks questions. The SAC measures concentration, orientation and the ability to form new memories, while the Maddocks questions evaluate the player's pre-injury memory.

By comparing post-injury results to an athlete's baseline score, the SCAT2 can help coaches determine the likelihood of a concussion.

It should be noted that no field test, whether performed by a coach or parent, is a substitute for an examination by a medical professional. While injuries cannot be wholly prevented, having the right equipment, from shin guards to safe practice soccer goals, can reduce young athletes' risk.