What Does An ImPACT Test Score Mean? - Cerebrum Health Centers
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What Does An ImPACT Test Score Mean?

What Does An ImPACT Test Score Mean?

Testing Has ImPACT on Concussion Recovery

Tests are usually no fun, but sometimes, they’re necessary. A concussion can make a severe impact on someone’s life, especially if it’s not evaluated immediately and thoroughly. There are different assessment methods for looking into concussions, but the most common is called the ImPACT (Immediate Post-concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) Test. As a computerized neurocognitive test, the evaluation is designed to help evaluate, manage, and monitor a suspected concussion to determine whether it is safe for an athlete to return to the field, ice, or court.

Testing Just As Crucial Before Injury

If you don’t know what your “normal” is, how can you gauge whether or not you’re back to it? That’s why the ImPACT test is broken down into two forms: baseline and post-injury testing.

Ideally, athletes are given a test before the start of the season. That way, there is a baseline assessment for later comparison if the athlete should indeed experience a concussion. The test should take place shortly after the head injury, as well as throughout therapy and treatment, in the post-injury stages.  

Who Administers ImPACT?

High schools, colleges, professional athletic programs, doctors, trainers, and therapists everywhere use this method of testing. In fact, it’s one of the tools we use here at Johnson Medical Associates. Though the ImPACT test is highly known in the medical world, many may not know exactly what it evaluates.

ImPACT Looks At…

The ImPACT test measures aspects of cognitive functioning including attention, memory, reaction time, and processing speed. Using certain test modules in categories like Word Memory, Visual Memory, Symbols, Colors, and other tricks-of-the-eye, the healthcare provider can dive into how well the test taker is able to respond in speed and accuracy. From matching numbers to symbols, colors to words, and recalling lines of text or numerals either backward or forward, a patient’s mind is adequately and thoroughly tested from all angles of mental functioning. Based on the patient’s scores per category, the doctor is able to decide the athlete’s level of impact, and thus, further treatment plans.

The ImPACT test is reliant upon the following test modules:

  • Word Memory
  • Design Memory
  • Symbol Match
  • X’s and O’s Test
  • Color Match
  • Three Letters

Word Memory is designed to assess the patient’s attention and ability to process and remember words briefly displayed on screen. Similarly, Design Memory focuses on testing visual memory by asking the patient to remember visual designs instead of words. To test visual working memory, the X’s and O’s test comes into play, in which a random group of X’s and O’s (some highlighted) are displayed on screen. The test taker is then distracted with another task, shown the same X’s and O’s again but without the highlighting, and asked which ones were previously highlighted.   

Symbol Match evaluates the individual’s visual processing speed, learning, and memory. The test taker is shown symbols associated with particular numbers and then asked them to recall the numbers associated with each symbol. The Color Match test measures reaction time and impulse control. “Red,” “Blue,” and “Green” are put on screen all at once, each word colored in either red, blue, or green. Then, as quickly as possible, test takers are asked to click on the word that matches up with its color.

The Three Letters test is designed to measure memory and visual-motor response speed. Shown a grid of numbers 1-25 in random order, the test taker is asked to click on them in backwards order as quickly as possible. During this, three random letters appear on screen, and the individual is asked to repeat the backwards order once more. Once the grid disappears, subjects attempt to recall the three letters.

Don’t Wait for the Injury

If you’re an athlete, it’s imperative to get to know your baseline. Just because the season has started, doesn’t mean you should wait until you’re injured. The path to recovery starts before you even need it, and should definitely start before you head back out on the field.






¹ “Overview and Features of the ImPACT Test.” ImPACT website. http://impacttest.com/about/background. Accessed February 5, 2013.
² “Baseline and Post-Injury Neurocognitive Tests.” ImPACT website. http://impacttest.com/about/test_features/neurocognitive_test. Accessed February 5, 2013.
³ “Graphic Display of ImPACT Test Scores.” ImPACT website. http://impacttest.com/index.php/about/test_features/graphic_display. Accessed February 5, 2013.]]>