Concussions in children can be scary and as parents we’d love a way to prevent them. While that isn’t always possible, there is something you can do beforehand to help doctors better treat your child in the event of a traumatic brain injury. The New England Institute for Neurology and Headache (NEINH) can obtain baseline information prior to a concussion to help determine the cognitive effects after an injury and to better determine things like treatment plans and when it’s safe to return a student-athlete to play.
For more on what baseline testing entails and when it’s best to have it done, we turned to Dr. Kate Mullin with NEINH.
What is baseline testing?
Baseline testing is a standardized neurocognitive test (here at the New England Institute of Neurology and Headache we use the CNS Vitals test) that objectively scores a child’s “Baseline” or noninjured brain abilities. The test generally covers multiple domains including both verbal and visual memory, reaction times, executive functioning and motor speed. These are all domains that may be effected should a child experience a concussion later in life.
What is the test like?
The CNS Vitals test is a computer based exam administered in a quiet room. It generally takes around 45 minutes to complete and involves a series of activities performed using the keyboard.
Why is it important in children?
Baseline testing is important in children because it can give the examiner, as well as the patient’s family and school, a clear outline of their abilities and skill sets prior to any insult to the brain. In the future, should the child unfortunately incur a concussion, the test can be repeated, and the scores pre and post injury can be compared. Any discrepancy in scores can help aid in treatment plans, prognosis, as well as potential academic accommodations.
When should you bring your child in for this type of test?
Ideally, children are brought in during the pre-season of each year (prior to any contact sports). For children that are in high probability concussion sports like ice hockey, soccer and football, it is recommended that they have baseline testing done each year, even if no clear concussion occurred the season prior.
If a child has already had a concussion, can baseline testing still be helpful?
Yes. Testing can still be helpful. Technically, a child should be completely asymptomatic from their acute concussion prior to completing the evaluation. Even if the child has some long term consequences from their recent concussion- it is important to determine their “new baseline” for potential future events as a new basis of comparison.
Is this covered by insurance?
Baseline testing (CNS Vitals) is performed here at the New England Institute of Neurology and Headache for a flat rate of $85. Test results are then saved electronically as a part of the patient’s medical record and can be referred back to for years. The cost of the testing can be submitted to insurance. The reimbursement procedures vary based on policy and plan.
NEINH has a Personalized Concussion Care Center with a fully integrated clinical and research center providing individualized care to children, adolescents and adults who have suffered a concussion. The team consists of neurologists, neuropsychologists, psychologists, nurses, vestibular physical therapist, massage therapists and dietitians are experts in the field of concussion assessment and management.
Their program has 3 main goals:
- Providing the highest level of medical care to children, adolescents and adults with concussions, to allow for the fastest safest return to school, sports or work.
- Increasing research-based knowledge, skills and instrumentation used in evaluation and treatment of concussion
- Improving the general knowledge of our community in regard to early recognition of concussion signs and symptoms and proper management of concussion to prevent long term complications.
This post is sponsored by the New England Institute for Neurology & Headache, located at 30 Buxton Farm Road (Ste 230) in Stamford.
To find out more or book an appointment, go to neinh.com or call (203) 914-1900.
(Photos c/o Unsplash)