Child’s Play: How the PEDIATRIC ImPACT® TEST Helps Young Athletes

Child’s Play: How the PEDIATRIC ImPACT® TEST Helps Young Athletes


ImPACT® (Immediate Postconcussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) is the most widely used computerized neurocognitive evaluation tool. This scientifically validated evaluation was pioneered by experts at the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program and aids in the diagnosis and management of a concussion. It received FDA approval in August 2016.

ImPACT is also used when an athlete has not sustained a concussion in order to establish baseline data. Baseline data can assist in the diagnosis, management, and rehabilitation of a concussion, because the team is able to compare data and chart progress.


Physically, emotionally, and cognitively, children are different from adults. It’s important to be aware of these developmental differences. The pediatric version of ImPACT, also FDA approved in August 2016, is designed to be mindful of the child’s experience, and in fact, 89% of users rate the subtests as fun and easy to understand.

The comprehensive evaluation process is adapted in the following ways to be more effective in younger patients:

  • Questions are adjusted to the child’s developmental level and simple terminology is used. For instance, nausea is referred to as “tummy ache,” fatigue as “tired.”
  • It’s important to make the child feel at ease. Even something as simple as having an appropriate chair for them can help, so that they aren’t seated on the exam table, which some kids associate with having to get a shot.
  • The interviewer follows up on discrepancies between what the child reports and what the parent reports. Kids may tend to over report some issues that parents might deny, such as trouble sleeping and nausea. And parents tend to over report some issues that kids deny, such as irritability and cognitive issues.
  • The test stimuli are made more age-appropriate. For instance a part of the ImPACT test designed to test processing speed or reaction times becomes a “stop and go” traffic light game in the pediatric version and visual memory is measured with a concentration/matching game with animals and food.
  • The pediatric version of ImPACT is administered to children ages 5-11 years old on an tablet compared to a computer to allow for greater engagement.


Because a child’s brain is still developing at a rapid rate, it may be more susceptible to injury and have a more prolonged recovery time. In addition to a complete evaluation, ImPACT can help aid in the diagnosis of a concussion. Once diagnosed, an individualized treatment plan can be developed and rehabilitation can begin.

Learn more about ImPact testing.

Learn more about neurocognitive testing.

Learn more about how UPMC Sports Medicine works to promote baseline testing in the community.