No Pass, No Playing Ball

Concussion severity evaluation is more objective with the ImPact test

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) To play or not to play, that is the question. After a concussion is experienced, the art of decision-making regarding whether to let an athlete return to play ball can be more objective now due to the ImPACT test.

Physicians at the University of Pittsburgh have developed a baseline establishment brain test used by most professional sports teams and a growing number of school districts which helps make the call when an athlete may return to play.

"Ask your child's school if they offer baseline assessment ImPact Testing."

Dr. Mark Lovell, director of the sports medicine concussion program for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center explains that the ImPACT test puts the brain through a stress test. This tool establishes a baseline for an individual's cognitive process and if it isn't met after a concussion, we know the brain isn't functioning properly.

A concussion causes a firestorm in the brain which changes the chemistry in the fluid surrounding the brain. The brain makes billions of decisions based partially on messenger signals in the fluids. An injury can interrupt their pathways and lead to marginalized brain function.

In an exciting example of individualized medicine, ImPACT, developed by University of Pittsburgh physicians is administered on the computer and requires 20 minutes to take. The computerized test evaluates an individual's recognition, memory and reaction times.  

For example, in one portion of the test the athlete will be shown a list of words to memorize and then the list will disappear. The athlete being evaluated will then be asked if a certain word was on the list or not. Their acuity in answering these questions establishes a personal baseline. Only when the athlete's brain function returns to "their" normal will they be cleared to play.

This program is catching on quickly. February of 2011, the NFL required all participants in the draft combine to establish a baseline via the ImPact test.

In April 2011, major league lacrosse implemented mandatory ImPACT testing for all players.

Minnesota lawmakers are pushing a bill through which would require ImPACT testing for all student athletes.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 11, 2011
Last Updated:
June 23, 2011