When an athlete shows any signs of a concussion, they should be medically evaluated on the field or sideline, with particular attention given to ruling out a cervical spine injury. Once the first aid issues are addressed, then an assessment of the athlete’s mental status can be made by athletic trainers, coaches and sideline medical personnel using the Standardized Assessment of Concussion.
The SAC takes approximately 5 minutes to administer and includes measures of;
- Orientation (month, date, day of week, year, time)
- Immediate Memory
- Neurologic Screening
- Loss of consciousness
- Exertional Maneuvers
- Delayed Recall
Recent studies have shown that the use of the SAC has value in helping sports medicine professional in the diagnosis and management of concussion in athletes on the sport sideline, particularly in identifying concussions in the 90% of cases where there is no loss of consciousness or other obvious signs of concussion. The SAC has not, however, been validated for use in the grade school athlete.
Follow up testing required
The SAC is designed for rapid concussion evaluation on the sidelines. Like other brief neuropsychological test batteries that assess attention and memory function, the SAC is not meant to replace comprehensive neuropsychological testing or used as a stand-alone tool for the ongoing management of sports concussions. It is also important to remember that symptoms may not appear until several hours after injury.
Baseline test data increases effectiveness
As with other neuropsychological testing tools, the value of the SAC in concussion assessment is maximized when individual baseline test data is available because without such baselines, the athlete’s post injury performance must be interpreted by comparison with a generalized “normal” based on large population samples.