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All About Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing

All About Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing

Whether your child bumps their head during sports or takes a fall at home or on the playground, they need a prompt assessment. Even if they feel fine and don't have symptoms of a concussion, it's still crucial to get an evaluation that reveals the effect on their brain.

When the THINK Neurology for Kids team sees children who may have a concussion, they get fast and accurate information using ImPACT®, which stands for Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing. In this blog, we talk about why your child needs a post-concussion evaluation and how ImPACT works.

Why your child needs an immediate assessment

Concussions are challenging because the symptoms don't always match the severity of the brain injury. A post-concussion assessment is the only way to ensure your child's concussion is accurately diagnosed, and they get the best treatment.

A post-concussion assessment provides information that:

Verifies a concussion

Concussions typically cause mild symptoms, and many children have delayed symptoms that don’t appear for days or weeks. As a result, children and teens can easily shrug off a bump to the head and go about their usual activities as if nothing happened. An ImPACT assessment quickly verifies they sustained a concussion even if they don't have symptoms.

Identifies the damage

During the impact that causes a concussion, the brain bounces against the inside of the skull. Even if the symptoms are barely noticeable, the trauma still injures the nerves and causes biochemical changes that affect the brain's function. A prompt assessment is the only way to determine the severity of the damage to your child's brain.

Guides treatment

If your child has a concussion, their brain needs time to heal. That means they need to stop all physical and mental activities temporarily.

Avoiding activity is critical because the brain is vulnerable during the recovery period and can sustain serious damage from the slightest bump. Without resting the brain, your child’s concussion symptoms can turn into a long-lasting problem.

Without early treatment, about half of children still have symptoms a month after their head injury. Fifteen percent have symptoms that last a year. 

The results of a post-concussion assessment help us determine how long your child needs to rest their brain. 

Prevents second-impact syndrome

Young athletes need special attention because their maturing brains are more susceptible to severe damage. Sustaining another head injury before they fully heal, a condition called second-impact syndrome, can lead to brain swelling and permanent neurological injuries.

Second-impact syndrome most often occurs in young athletes who return to normal activities before their initial concussion heals.

ImPACT measures brain function after a concussion

During a post-concussion evaluation, we determine the effect of the concussion on your child's brain. Though we can use standardized neurocognitive tests, we get faster results using ImPACT testing.

ImPACT is FDA-cleared for assessing and managing concussions. The test, which is done on the computer or tablet, is backed by scientific studies showing it accurately and objectively measures cognitive function.

For anyone over the age of 12, the computerized test takes about 20 minutes. ImPACT also has a child-friendly version for children between the ages of 5-11. This test only takes about 10-15 minutes.

In that short time, ImPACT reveals information about neurocognitive functions such as:

Some students take an ImPACT test at the start of a school year or sports season. This provides baseline data about their normal brain function. Then we compare the baseline test to the results of an ImPACT test taken after a head injury to assess the changes caused by a concussion.

However, the ImPACT test accurately reflects the severity of your child's concussion even if we don't have baseline information. We compare their test scores to a database of average scores for others in the same age range.

If you have any questions or need to schedule a concussion evaluation, call THINK Neurology for Kids or request an appointment online today.

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