Everything that we think, say and do is controlled by a set of "thinking skills" or "cognitive skills". These include:
Speed of Processing
Executive Function e.g. planning, decision-making, problem-solving and starting (initiation) and stopping (inhibition)
Our brain is a highly specialised organ, and specific areas are linked to specific "cognitive skills".
Neuropsychological testing used a range of gold standard tests, that have been developed over decades by researchers to target and assess specific skills linked to specific brain regions.
Because these tests a directly linked to specific regions of the brain, the results can be used to detect brain changes, often before an MRI can adequately detect these.
What is a Neuropsychological Assessment?
Following testing, results are scored up and interpreted.
We provide three types of feedback, which you may choose from:
A helpful "cognitive profile" can be produced to show strengths and weaknesses in ability and whether these falls in the "average" range etc. We can then closely monitor any change in skills at future assessments and work to rehabilitate skills where there are greater weakness.
A short report (1-3 pages) with broad areas of strength and weakness and a conclusion.
A comprehensive report (8-15 pages) outlining a full history, explaining tests and results in detail, a summary of findings and conclusions based the evidence provided, along with recommendations.
The results of a Neuropsychological Assessment
Full Neuropsychological Assessment (recommended in the first instance)
A full neuropsychological assessment of cognition usually lasts 2-3 hours.
A series of pen and paper tasks are administered. These include activities such as naming pictures, using blocks to create designs, remembering information, drawing pictures and so on.
Tests vary in length and complexity and are all designed to become progressively harder, to challenge individuals of all ability.
Cognitive screening/brief assessment
Expertly administered brief cognitive testing last between 10-15 minutes and gives a broad overview of cognitive difficulties..
If a screen is completed before competition, this acts as a baseline measure and can be again administered post-match in order to provide efficient indicators of cognitive change following any effects of impact to the head.
Alternatively, or in addition, we offer post-fight / post-match concussion screening,.
This is a vital tool which involves the athlete answering some basic questions to assess for symptoms of concussion, following a game/fight.
Crucially, this may detect subtle changes indicating a concussion that can be compared to baseline, thus allowing for a pause in play to minimise second impact syndrome (when a blow on top of a concussion leads to catastrophic injury due to an accumulation effect.
What does a Neuropsychological Assessment involve?
Whether you opt for a full assessment, brief assessment or post-game/fight concussion monitoring, any of these tests can be repeated at different time intervals for monitoring of risk to brain health.
At the Sports Neuropsychology Clinic, we tailor the assessment and follow-up to your needs. We can also assess and monitor multiple players of a team/gym as part of team-based approach to safeguarding your athletes.
Follow-up screening and monitoring
For athletes, particularly those in contact sports including boxing and rugby, the risk of brain injuries is particularly high. Having a "baseline" assessment early on, before any obvious changes have occurred, provides an incredibly useful picture of your skills to professionals, against which comparisons can be made after any injury.
Athletes may attend on a yearly basis for routine follow-up assessment in order to receive a repeated set of tests that have been shown to detect subtle changes in thinking skills, indicating brain damage, in order for athletes to make informed decisions about continued play.
Neuropsychological assessments are not used by neuropsychologists to diagnose neurological disorders, however they can contribute vital information to diagnosis alongside neurology findings.
Assessment findings can be used to develop tailored rehabilitation plans to support and manage any cognitive difficulties.
What are the benefits of having a Neuropsychological Assessment?
The results of the assessment are vital for many reasons, including that we can use the results to implement scientifically informed interventions to support a person's cognitive abilities in relation to their personal goals.
If, for example, we found that attention is an area of weakness, we can further assess this to find out which aspect of attention is weak e.g. is it when paying attention to one thing for a long period of time (sustained attention) or paying attention to one thing, in spite of distractions (selective attention).
We would then use an attention re-training programme in order to target the area of difficulty in order to support an athlete in strengthening and compensating for a weakness in this area.