New Baseline Testing Program Aims to Help Diagnosis, Treatment of Youth Athlete Concussions

HealthReach Rehabilitation Services in Brookfield is now offering comprehensive baseline testing that could help physicians properly treat young athletes after a concussion.

The service, for individual youth athletes as well as youth teams, addresses all the major best-practice assessments for safe, effective management of sports related concussions, said Michael Tabor, director of sports medicine for HealthReach Rehabilitation Services.

“Concussions are on the rise as athletes of all ages play aggressively on fields, courts and ice,” Tabor said. “Even minor impacts can result in long-term cognitive and motor deficiencies when a concussion goes undiagnosed and an athlete returns to play too soon.”

Unlike some other services, HealthReach’s Sports Concussion Program goes beyond baseline cognitive testing.

“Many other clinics stop at the cognitive testing,” Tabor said. “We also do a four-part balance test and offer sideline assessment and follow-up management.” Comprehensive baseline tests gather results for pre-injury neurocognitive and neurophysical functions.

Baseline testing is now used in most professional and collegiate athletic programs. Youth sports clubs and teams, and parents, are now becoming more interested in testing as awareness of concussions grows. Amid the rising awareness, there remains a lack of knowledge about concussions, or misinformation, according to Tabor.

“There needs to be a broader awareness among youth team coaches, especially volunteer coaches, about concussions,” he said. The Health Reach program is partly intended to fill that information gap.

The Sports Concussion Program includes baseline testing using the Axon Sports Computerized Cognitive Tool. Results of the test establish a benchmark for cognitive function by measuring the speed and accuracy of different aspects of thinking.

The program’s Biodex balance testing helps determine which sensory system an athlete relies on to maintain balance.

The third leg of the Sports Concussion Program is the “Play It SAFE” protocol that provides guidelines to assess a concussion and assist in return-to-play decisions. SAFE stands for sideline assessment and follow-up management.

“We hope this program will help parents and coaches make good decisions about seeking medical care for their children and athletes if they suspect an impact might have caused a concussion,” Tabor said. “And we know pediatricians will be glad to have baseline information that will help them make more informed decisions on care and on a plan for the athlete’s return to competitive play.”

Baseline tests are conducted at HealthReach by licensed physical therapists and athletic trainers. Testing takes about 20 minutes. There is a $25 fee. HealthReach also offers a flat-fee program for youth teams and clubs. Annual testing is recommended.

Appointments for baseline concussion testing, and requests for team or club testing, can be made by calling the Brookfield clinic at 262-780-0707.

HealthReach is on the web at Founded in 1994, the company has 150 therapists working in 12 clinics in Wisconsin.