ImPACT Testing in Sports Related Concussions

When it comes to sports, concussion prevention and management is very important. On this page of our site, we are going to look at sports-related concussions and ImPACT Testing. Concussion management consists of using neurocognitive testing and these evaluations can help determine a concussed athlete's post-injury condition and track their recovery until they are safe to return to play. It also helps to prevent athletes from returning to play too soon.

There are a number of neurocognitive tests that can be performed. Written tests include the SAC and SCAT5. ImPACT testing is a computerized test.

ImPACT Testing Concussion Assessment Tool

ImPACT stands for immediate post-concussion assessment and cognitive testing. It's an online, computer-based testing program that was specifically designed for the management of sports-related concussions. It is a research-based software tool that was developed at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center - Center for Sports Medicine. It evaluates multiple aspects of neurocognitive function including memory, attention brain processing speed, reaction time, and post-concussion symptoms. It is used in NFL concussion protocol and by the NBA, NHL, MLB, and more.

ImPACT testing has two components. These are baseline testing and post-injury testing. These are used in conjunction to determine if an athlete is fit to return to play.

  • Baseline Testing: This refers to neurocognitive testing under normal conditions before the injury and is typically carried out pre-season. The baseline test gives a snapshot of how a player's brain functions in normal, everyday circumstances. This concussion assessment test is conducted on-site by trained staff with the assistance of athletic trainers. It takes approximately 25 minutes to complete and the software formulates baseline data which is stored and can be retrieved at a later date if an athlete sustains a concussion.
  • Post Injury Testing: If a player sustains a concussion they are tested again post-injury. The scores from this test are then compared to the baseline scores. Post-injury tests are carried out by a medical or health care professional that has had specialized training and can interpret and evaluate the composite scores. These professionals base their concussion management decision and the decision to return to play on test comparisons. This allows for safer decisions to be made. Post-injury testing is usually done once a concussed athlete is free of symptoms and can be as early as 24-72 hours after injury.

How ImPACT Testing Works

As a concussion assessment tool, ImPACT testing is essential in all contact sports. Below is an overview of how it works.

  • A 25 minute online test is available for ages 12-59
  • It is delivered via a secure web portal
  • It can be taken on any computer that has internet connection and a mouse
  • It is administered in the presence of a nurse, physician, athletic trainer, or coach. Only a licensed healthcare provider can do the post-injury test.
  • The results are interpreted by a licensed healthcare provider

Advantages of ImPACT Testing

As a concussion evaluation tool, there are many advantages to ImPACT testing. It allows for concussion management using a proven cognitive computerized test and we have listed the key advantages below.

  • Regulatory clearances and approvals as a medical device
  • Baseline and post-injury testing
  • Reimbursement with applicable billing codes
  • Comprehensive administration in 20 to 25 minutes
  • Strong technical security controls for data privacy and security
  • Can be used on persons aged 12-59
  • Accessible on all modern browsers and computers
  • Extra services such as training and resources are available

The Importance of Concussion Protocols

In the sporting industry concussion management protocol is essential and there are a number of things that need to be taken into consideration when creating a concussion evaluation plan. The NFL, NHL, etc, all have their own concussion management protocols and concussion assessment tools that they use. To create these, there are a number of steps that are taken. The first of these is understanding what a concussion protocol is. The next step is to ensure that a return to play strategy is in play. An ImPACT Return To Activity Strategy Cheat Sheet is available and can be used. All members of the team including trainers and coaches need to be aware of what is happening and what the concussion protocols are. A sideline reference card is usually kept on hand during training and games which gives a quick evaluation path that can be used to analyze the condition of a player as well as concussion signs and symptoms to be aware of.

ImPACT Testing Frequently Asked Questions

What is ImPACT?
ImPACT is a neurocognitive assessment with two components: baseline testing and post-injury testing which are used in conjunction to determine if a player can safely return to play.

How long is the ImPACT test?
The test typically takes 25 minutes and is carried out online.

Can it be used on all age groups?
ImPACT is designed for ages 12 to 59.

Who can administer and interpret a post-injury test?
Post-injury testing can only be carried out by a licensed healthcare provider.

Can a post-injury test be carried out if a player didn't have a baseline test?
Yes. It is ideal to have baseline scores but post-injury scores can be compared to normative data for the players relative demographic.