Nearly 4 million sport-related traumatic brain injuries, mostly concussions, occur every year. The best way to determine whether an athlete has suffered a sport-related concussion is to combine symptom reporting, clinical assessment, and pre- and post-injury testing of neurocognitive function. Examples of neurocognitive function include memory, concentration, processing speed, and reaction time.
Researchers funded by the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research conducted a survey among high schools with athletic trainers to find out how many athletes received computerized neurocognitive pre- and post-injury testing to assess a sport-related concussion.
The survey for the 2009–2010 academic year found that 41% of the surveyed high schools used the testing to evaluate athletes with concussions, up from 26% of high schools that used the testing in the 2008–2009 academic year.
Athletes given the test sat out longer before returning to play than did those who were not tested. One possible explanation is that the testing detected symptoms or cognitive deficits that might have otherwise gone undetected.
The study’s findings supports the use of neurocognitive testing—along with clinical assessment and symptom reporting—to ensure athletes are adequately recovered before returning to play (PMID: 22129538).