Oct 17, 2019Neurocognitive testing for the management of concussions (sponsored)
Guessing games are fun to play with kids — guessing games are not fun to play when managing concussions in sports. With all of the studies and research in concussions, this is no longer an option for medical professionals. There are many tools on the market that can be used to assist medical professionals in diagnosing and managing concussions as well as making return to play decisions. Neurocognitive testing tools are abundant and necessary for medical professionals to utilize.
First, it is imperative to provide baseline testing for athletes of all ages. This gives practitioners the ability to compare post-concussion data to the healthy baseline data of athletes. After a concussion diagnosis has been made, neurocognitive testing can also be used throughout the rehabilitation process in determining how to progress an athlete back to sport, as well as assisting to make a final decision on return to play.
Products such as ImPACT, HitCheck, Brain check, SCAT and Sway have been on the market for many years and have helped medical professionals take the guessing out of concussion management. I have personally used all of these products and in doing so have felt more confident in managing concussions with my student-athletes. These neurocognitive testing tools continue to improve and provide medical professionals with the necessary data to confidently diagnose, treat and manage concussions.
Utilizing a neurocognitive tool, such as HitCheck, to aid in the clinical assessment of concussions has been recommended by the NATA’s Position Statement: Management of Concussions. Various tools exist for the clinician to utilize according to system requirements, ease of use, and reliability. A test-retest reliability study conducted at Cabrillo College from 2012-2014 showed equivalent reliability to the SCAT II. In a separate study HitCheck was equivalent to ImPact in managing acute concussions and return to play decisions.
With concussion awareness growing and more clinicians looking into various tools to aid in their efficiency and accuracy of diagnosing and follow-up evaluations, the importance of finding the most reliable tools is necessary. Evaluation of concussions should take a multifaceted approach, including many components such as memory, cognition, balance, color recognition, and speed and coordination. Products such as the HitCheck application attempt to incorporate all components into one tool rather than utilizing several tools.
It should be noted that neurocognitive testing is just one tool we use as practitioners. Concussions should be carefully managed with the guidance of a licensed physician. The ultimate decision of return to play should come from the physician; however, tools such as HitCheck are a critical part of the process. With the improvement of technology, clinicians are not only choosing computer-based neurocognitive assessment tools for concussions, but also looking into applications for their personal cell phones and tablets. Many clinicians decide to utilize these products because of the ease of use and help in the assessment process. So, take the guessing out of your management of concussions, research the best tools that will work for you and make them part of your concussion management protocol. The safety of your athletes depends on you not playing guessing games.