What To Expect When Getting A Concussion Test

An accidental fall, car crash, or sports injury are all circumstances that place us at high risk for a concussion (via MedlinePlus). Also referred to as a mild brain injury, a concussion is the result of trauma that hinders brain function for a short period of time after the fact. In some cases, symptoms can linger for a period of several months or more, but most concussions heal promptly on their own, per the Mayo Clinic.

Even so, if you suffer a concussion, how soon is it safe to return to day-to-day life? To help determine an answer, clinicians may utilize a concussion test to assess your state of cognitive function after the trauma by comparing it to your level of brain function prior to the concussion (via the Mayo Clinic). Targeted areas for assessment include memory, balance, concentration, problem-solving speed, and attentiveness. These tests are often administered to kids and adolescents involved in sports.

So how exactly are these tests conducted? Here's a step-by-step outline of what's involved in a concussion test.

Concussion tests may be issued before and after a brain injury

For those who partake in sports or other high-risk activities, doctors may conduct what's known as a baseline concussion test — a test used to assess normal cognitive function prior to engagement in the activity (via the Mayo Clinic). For this test, simulated tasks are issued through a 15-minute computer test.

Another computerized test may be conducted once or repeatedly following a concussion, sometimes in combination with a physical exam, to assess balance, thinking, and memory (per the Mayo Clinic). Some examples of tasks a person may be asked to complete include remembering things, attention-oriented tasks, or answering a series of questions. These tasks may be administered via computer or pencil and paper.

Depending on how your concussion test results match up to your initial baseline concussion test, doctors can track your cognitive function to determine when it's safe to return to day-to-day life. In the meantime, MedlinePlus states that your doctors may ask you to rest and avoid mentally taxing activities, such as studying, computer work, or playing video games.