Cheat the ImPACT test, cheat yourself

Matthew Barbato, Opinion Editor

Let’s face it.

Most high school athletes live in fear of what would really happen if they got a concussion. The thought of missing out on the season — or even a week or two — is not in your plans. Many admit that they’d rather come back sooner than they should – what’s the big deal? And a dirty little secret is that if you cheat on the ImPACT baseline test, you just might be able to manipulate the system to your advantage.

In order to play a sport at ETHS, you must take an ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion and Cognitive Testing) baseline test before the season begins.

Concussion tests measure a combination of memory, reaction time, speed of mental processing, and overall functioning of the brain. When you suffer a concussion during the season, you retake the ImPACT test. The results are compared to your baseline scores to make decisions about when you are healthy enough to return to play.

ETHS athletic trainer Dan Condux says he’s seen students intentionally attempt to do poorly on their baseline tests, getting just enough questions wrong to stay under the radar of suspected cheating.

But no matter how badly you want to get back in the game after sustaining a concussion, intentional underperformance on the baseline test can jeopardize your season, career, and even your life. That may sound heavy, but consider the fates of Muhammad Ali or Junior Seau, who paid the ultimate price from sustaining numerous concussions. While their stories are extreme, the damage is real.

Condux says it’s important for student athletes to try their hardest and achieve the best possible scores for their baseline testing — this determines the level of functionality for each student athlete’s brain capacity.

Using accurate results, athletic trainers and physicians can make appropriate plans regarding care for student-athletes, and decide when it is safe for them to return to play.

Intentional underperformance on ImPACT tests doesn’t just happen in high school or college. In July 2012, recently retired quarterback Peyton Manning admitted to botching his baseline test, so that he could stay off the injured reserve list if he suffered a head injury during the season. Former NFL safety Matt Bowen also cheated the concussion test by intentionally missing questions. He now admits it was a bad move.

If short-term memory loss, depression and anxiety sound like symptoms you’d like to have, go ahead and flub the ImPACT test. But cheating is the wrong mentality. The simple solution is to do your best. Sandbagging the system is a brainless move.