Hockey, like most sports, can be dangerous for young athletes. There is always a risk of injuries, including brain injuries and concussions. Using the proper safety equipment can reduce but not entirely eliminate this risk. Because so many parents are concerned about their children being injured, baseline concussion testing has gained popularity in recent years.
Baseline concussion testing is done before the hockey season starts. The testing is designed to assess the player’s normal state of brain functioning. That way, if an injury does occur, testing can be performed again, and the post-injury results can be compared to the earlier results. The testing, in other words, allows doctors to see what, if any, damage has been done to the brain, allowing them to better develop a treatment plan. These scan results can also be used to decide when it is safe for a hockey player to get back on the ice.
If you think that baseline concussion testing is a smart option for your young hockey player, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises having a test done at least once a year, always before the start of the season, preferably even before tryouts.
There are several different types of baseline concussion tests available. Most parents will want to opt for more comprehensive tests, such as the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 2 (SCAT2), which examines coordination, balance, and speech in addition to brain functioning.
It is important to understand that baseline concussion tests are not perfect tools. They cannot tell everything about the extent of an injury, about the healing process, or about when it’s safe to return to the sport. However, they are one of the most comprehensive and useful tools out there, so most parents feel that they’re at least worth trying, just in case.