baseline concussion testing Pittsburgh

Where families can go now for kids’ baseline concussion testing in Pittsburgh

Photo above by Lars Bo Nielsen via Unsplash.

The calendar still says summer, but crowded community and school practice fields are proof that fall is coming. At most school districts, it means that baseline concussion testing for our student athletes should have been done, well… yesterday.

Testing is still available through a variety of options, even though the window for many free summer district-sponsored programs has passed.

“You can always come in and get a baseline test,” says Alicia Trbovich, PhD, a neuropsychologist at the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

Here are options for baseline concussion testing in the area:

UPMC: UPMC uses the ImPACT test. Go to ImPACT Test\Concussion Baseline Testing\ UPMC Sports Medicine to fill out an online form to schedule, or call 412-432-3681. Cost is $30 for the adult test, ages 10 and up, and $25 for the pediatric test, ages 5 through 9. Testing is done at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry and the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex in Pittsburgh.

Independence Health System (which is the former Excela Health and Butler Health systems): Parents can schedule tests by calling 724-689-1070, for Excela Health Center for Concussion Care in Greensburg. The cost is $25.

AHN: The Allegheny Health Network uses the Sway Concussion Baseline Test. For various locations and testing dates throughout the year and to schedule, go to Cost is $20.

In Pennsylvania, individual school districts establish requirements for baseline concussion testing, according to Scott Seltzer, executive director of the WPIAL. Parents should check with their school district’s athletic department prior to testing.

Though school teams generally require baseline testing, some club sports do not. But parents of students in club sports can also contact the above locations for testing.

“We are working on expanding testing options,” says Missy Bauer, senior athletic trainer, AHN Sports Medicine.

How does baseline testing work and how often do athletes need it?

The 20-minute computer or tablet-based test measures brain function in a normal healthy state, pre-injury, to get a picture of strengths and weaknesses in someone’s individual cognitive function. This includes things like memory function, processing information and reaction time. Results of the same test, taken after a concussion has occurred, are compared to the original test.

“It helps with diagnosis and particularly for kids who have some preexisting condition that would make it difficult to guess what they should perform at,” Trbovich says. “If there is a baseline, then I can tell if (a student) was low on something before because of ADHD or some kind of vision problem – or any other preexisting medical condition that affects their attention, concentration, reading or any academic skill.”

The testing is especially beneficial for someone playing a contact sport, explains Marco Alcala, MD, director of sports medicine at Allegheny Health Network. He and his staff see about 6,000 concussions yearly with about 50 to 75 percent resulting from sports injuries.

Baseline testing, he says, is meant to take the guesswork out of returning to play following an injury.

“If you’re trying to hit a ball, like a baseball, the timing is important; you’re going to be missing the ball every time if your timing is off,” Alcala says. “Throwing a simple frisbee, you’re not going to catch it fast enough, and it’s going to hit you in the head again.”

Baseline testing should be completed every year for children 12 and under, and every two years for those ages 13 and up, according to UPMC.